Category Archives: Beaches, Canyons, Deserts, Mountains and Monasteries

a seaplane’s sanctification and turbulence

me and seaplane

I was asked, by a parishioner, if I would come and bless a seaplane that he uses to train pilots for water landings. He said that after the prayers he wanted to take me on a brief flight and that I should wear clothes that could get wet. I am always up for an adventure but, clothes that can get wet? I was at Falcon Field (a small plane airport in Mesa) at 7 in the morning. I did the prayers for the blessing of an airplane – really cool prayer service that I will include below. And yes, I know it is a little self-serving to bless the plane before takeoff.

After the plane blessing, Tom, my parishioner, gave me a safety briefing that could make a grown man cry. He first asked me if I could swim. I said, “yes” but was thinking, “should I call my wife and kids and tell them I love them, one last time? He said that if we crash on water we would both be injured and upside down. Sea planes flip over because the engine sits on top. Oh, and because of the water pressure the doors would not open until the cabin had completely filled with water and that I was to remain calm while it filled up. Right! And even though I would be wearing an inflatable life vest I was not to pull the cord while injured and upside down because it would inflate and trap me in the sinking plane. The good news was that there were bottles of “spare air.” I was to retrieve mine from behind his seat. However, the oxygen would not automatically flow and there was no valve. I was to remember to blow hard into the mouth piece in order to start the flow of oxygen…. all while injured and upside down and sinking in the cold, wet, dark, broken plane and not pulling the rip chord on my life vest….

my ride, complete with inflatable life vest

Did I mention that we had two beautiful water landings and take offs? Oh, did I also forget to mention that I threw up on the flight home? Tom is an ace but it was hot and there was turbulence. We were both apologetic but I am pretty sure throwing up was my fault and not his… I was very glad that he added that trash bag to our gear at last minute.

aerial view of saguaro lake


lake roosevelt bridge and dam

The prayer begins in the usual way with the Trisagion Prayers and then we read Psalm 139:

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O LORD, thou hast searched me and known me! Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up; thou discernest my thoughts from afar. Thou searchest out my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in hell, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee. For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are thy thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. When I awake, I am still with thee. O that thou wouldst slay the wicked, O God, and that men of blood would depart from me, men who maliciously defy thee, who lift themselves up against thee for evil! Do I not hate them that hate thee, O LORD? And do I not loathe them that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139

And then this prayer:

O Lord God, Who is borne on the cherubim; Who took Elijah up to heaven in a fiery chariot; Who, by your angels, carried Habakkuk and Philip the Deacon through the air, and Who gathered the Apostles at the Dormition of Your Mother: As the same Lord, sanctify this boat of the air, and bless those traveling in it, preserving them from all evil. For You alone are all-powerful, and to You we ascribe glory; to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

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Solitude and Anxiety

I have always thought of anxiety as something outside of my control. I thought anxiety was an expected result of dealing with stressful situations or people. I come off easy going but I often feel anxious.  My thoughts on anxiety are evolving because of a book I started reading this week.

I have begun reading, Solitude by Robert Kull. He spent a year alone in the Patagonian wilderness. He went to “integrate Ph.D. research into the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual effects of deep wilderness solitude with personal spiritual practice.” I am not sure how that sounds to you but, it is a page-turner. I will hold off recommending it until I have finished it or at least until he has survived the harsh winter months. What I have read so far (including the scripture below) has me reflecting differently about anxiety.

Robert Kull's Cabin, Photo by Bob Kull

I want to explore the anxiety I so often feel. It’s deep and poisons my life. I’ve seen over and over that things work out — not always as I’d planned, sometimes much better — yet still I look ahead with fear. Instead of relaxing into life, I’m often needlessly tense and worried. This last storm was an example. I worried that the cabin wouldn’t hold together, that the plastic over the tent would tear loose, that the boat would break free, or that some other undefined bad thing would happen, but I hadn’t thought at all about what actually did happen. Once faced with a real problem, I dealt with it. Even when things get really nasty — like my foot getting ripped off in the motorcycle crash — life continues. So why not let go of the worrying? Kull, Robert Solitude, page 104.

Anxiety is not based on reality, the way things are. “What if,” is the name of the anxiety game. Anxiety is an uneasiness of mind caused by fear of a future possibility. It is a state of uneasiness caused by a future uncertainty. Living in the present moment brings certainty, serenity and tranquility.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… Matthew 6:25a

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. Matthew 6:34

Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 RSV

Do you have trouble with anxiety? How do you let go of worrying? The way the verses from scripture read below it sounds like anxiety is in our control. Outside of an anxiety disorder would you say that anxiety is your control?

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A Song of Ascents: Rock Climbing Camelback

Praying Monk on Camelback

This week I went rock climbing on Camelback.  I affectionately call Camelback, “My Holy Mountain.” I have hiked Camelback’s Echo Canyon trail many times every week for the past 5 ½ years. But this was my first time rock climbing on Camelback. I went with a friend who knew what he was doing and where we were going. We hiked and climbed where few ever are able to go. I asked him about different ratings on our climbs and he would call out different numbers, which have absolutely no meaning to me. After one wall I asked, “What would you rate that last one?” He called back, “I would rate that one as fun!”

We saw a large active beehive, waterfall stains, two foxes and 2 places where hikers have fallen to their deaths. Keith died when he climbed up a wall and came face to face with an angry beehive. You can see his cross in the picture below. The other hiker, Tessa Worby, fell to her death while hiking/climbing alone two years ago this month. Seeing where Keith and Tessa died gets One thinking…

We go hiking and climbing to exercise and open our hearts and minds. You look up to a rock face or down a repel and realize that you have to trust your equipment, your hiking partner and the Lord. Climbing mountains reminds us that life is short, fragile, joyful, difficult, sometimes dangerous and always full of meaning.

Psalm 121 A Song of Ascents. Of David

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come. My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore.

Memorial Cross

Climbing into August Canyon

Heading into the "Back Country"

Camelback, "My Holy Mountain"

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Everyone Needs a Lonely Place

I returned home yesterday from a liturgical seminar in Riverside, CA with my bishop. I, along with 35 priests and deacons from Southern California and Arizona, spent two days going over the finer details of serving with the bishop. The seminar was fine, even fun at times. But probably the most important thing I learned at the seminar was not about the details of the services. The most enlightening bit of new information was coming to terms with the fact that I am out of gas. I am not depressed or exhausted but I could really use a little break.

I have often thought about what happened when the disciples asked Christ for a little break.

The Feeding of the 5,000

They needed a break and Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. Mark 6:31

It’s great, right? It is nice to know the context surrounding this call to take a break. Just prior to this John the Baptist has been beheaded. It is after the Forerunner is killed that Jesus says, “Let’s take a break.” Here is their vacation plan: climb in a boat and sail away from the crowd. The people saw the disciples and Jesus sailing away and ran around the Sea of Galilee. When they put to shore it is packed with people who are hungry and asking for food. The disciples say, “It’s late, send this crowd away.” Jesus says, “You give them something to eat.”

I am thinking about this story as I am running low on fuel. When the disciples were out of gas (and I am sure that Jesus was out of gas too) and needed a break, Jesus was with them and 5,000 men ate from 5 loaves and 2 fish. After the throngs were fed Jesus sent them away again on the boat so that they could have a break. He dismissed the crowds and hiked up the mountain to pray. He saw them struggling against the waves and He walked out on the water to them.

When we are tired and struggling God is there. But, when we are tired there may also be more work. Just acknowledging that I was running low did wonders to my spirit. I spoke to a couple of brother priests and asked the prayers of a dear friend today and my spirit got up out of the basement.  Thanks be to God. Everybody needs lonely places. Just be aware that sometimes the Lord leads us to lonely places to do ministry. Is that what you have found?

30 The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late; 36 send them away, to go into the country and villages round about and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down by companies upon the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. 45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Beth-sa’ida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw him, and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” 51 And he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. Mark 6:30-52

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Missing Taizé

Church of Reconciliation at Taizé

I have spent the past few months thinking about Taizé.

The Taizé Community is an Christian monastic order in Taizé, Burgundy, France. It is composed of about 100 brothers who come from Protestant and Catholic traditions. The brothers come from about 30 countries across the world. It was founded in 1940 by Brother Roger. The community has become one of the world’s most important sites of Christian pilgrimage. Over 100,000 young people from around the world make pilgrimages to Taizé each year for prayer, Bible study, sharing, and communal work.

My wife and I took a group of high school students back in 1995 and it has left a lasting impression on me. I often think about my experiences there. The 1,000’s of young people camping out in the French countryside was just remarkable. Everyone arrives there on some kind of pilgrimage. But a spiritual quest with that many teens means late night jam sessions signing Bruce Springsteen, Beatles and U2 songs. It also means prayer several times a day and Bible studies in many different languages. I can still hear the singing. I often think of the kids we took and how powerful and fun it was and how they are all grown ups now. I have never experienced anything like it before or since. I think about going back all the time.

Archbishop ANASTASIOS of Albania at Taizé

I just picked up Olivier Clément’s book, Taizé: A Meaning to Life. It got me thinking about what relationship the Orthodox have had and what kind of relationship we could/should have with Taizé.

Here are a few links about Orthodox interaction with Taizé:

Orthodox Archbishop Anastasios of Albania in Taizé

Taizé and the Russian Orthodox Church

Ortodocşi Români la Taizé

Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Greets Taizé Meeting

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What I Did at the Monastery of St. John

This is the third and final post from my visit to the Monastery of St. John in Manton, CA. Outside of services and meals I spent time visiting with the brothers, other guests, and time in solitude to pray, hike with the monastery dogs, read and write. Monastery visits are not typical vacations but they give one a chance to “look around.”

Here is a glimpse of what the hike looks like…

 

Cairn marks the beginning of the hike

 

 

Little Cabin in the Woods for One

 

 

Next stop on my dog walk: The monastic version of Beginning with the End in Mind. Unoccupied graves.

 

 

They know the way

 

 

Last stop on the hike: St. Seraphim's Rock

 

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Monastery of St. John Day 2

 

Monastery Bells Call Everyone to Prayer and Meals

 

Each day at the monastery begins with 20 minutes of silently praying the Jesus Prayer together in the chapel before the liturgical services begin. Not sure how or if it could be brought into parish practice. But it was very nice. After Divine Liturgy the monks and guest have a short break before the bells are rung signaling that the food has been set out for an informal breakfast. All meals are taken in silence but the informal meals are more like a buffet set up. After eating the monks scatter to their work. Administrative duties, candle dipping, soap making, farming, etc. along with prayer keeps everyone busy. But busy in a good way. The day ends with 20 more minutes of Jesus Prayer, evening services and a formal evening meal. Dinner is again eaten in silence with a monk reading aloud from a spiritual work.

 

Monastery Chapel

 

 

Monastery goat was nicer than he looks. Still, he is a goat.

 

 

Monastery garden was small enough not to give me that Stephen King feeling I always get near corn.

 

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