Wisdom along the Way

We did a lot of hiking on our recent trip to Utah’s national parks and monuments.  Cairns mark the trails, there being no big trees to post marks on as in the East.  A cairn is a pile of rocks of different sizes and shapes, curiously balanced and tall enough to be visible.

Balance in my life is something I have desired but often found elusive.  I have wondered why cairns don’t fall over.  I imagine that each rock is in a certain relation to the others and is held by the force of gravity.  Maybe a comfortably or neatly balanced life is an illusion and our lives look more like cairns–with an overemphasis on this at one time and on that at another, and with the balance coming from our grounding in the One who upholds us.

For me the cairns were very necessary.  We were walking on and over large expanses of rocks, so there was no well-worn path to follow.  I had no sense of the direction we needed to go to get to our destination, to say nothing of the existence of impassable canyons and other ways to get stuck if we went the wrong way.  And one misstep on the special desert soil would destroy what had taken two hundred years to develop and helped to keep it soil and not sand easily blown or washed away.

Again there were spiritual lessons to learn.  One, I can walk anyway I choose, but I may end up at dead ends or cause a lot of damage, to me or others.  Two, it matters who guides me.  Three, to get to what matters to me, there is a way.  Following it brings joy.

I also found that generally I was able to see only one cairn at a time.  I had to trust that there would be another one and look for it after I passed the one cairn I could see.  Thinking I knew where the trail went often got me lost until I went back to the last cairn and looked again for the next one.  God often shows us only one step at a time.  To walk with God requires trust that the way is there and that God will guide us.

Queries:

Which aspect of cairns speaks to you most at this time?

In whom, or what, do you find your grounding?

Prayer:

May I walk in Your Way and listen for Your guidance.

For further reference:

Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another,and helping one another up with a tender hand.”  (Isaac Penington, 1667.)

“. . . knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us. . .”  (See Romans 5: 1-5.)

Commitment, Dedication, and Practice

My husband and I have been attending the sports games of our friends’ son since he was in elementary school.  In middle school he made the school basketball team and began to concentrate on that sport.  While I have enjoyed watching him play and cheering him on, I have to confess that I really didn’t think he had the instincts or skill to be much of a force for his team.

But when he got to high school things changed.  He decided he wanted to be a good player and spent last summer in basketball leagues and special camps—learning from coaches and practicing lots.  He now can dunk the ball, blocks are frequent (without fouling!); he runs the court and gets himself where he needs to be.  He scores and rebounds.  His high school team this year was second in their conference, and his contribution was a significant factor in their success.

Committing to something that matters to you and then following through—honoring the need to learn and to practice—makes a difference in what is possible.

Another friend has a gift for caring for individuals and the community.  She has a way of intuitively knowing who needs attention and how and when to give that.  Her care sustains and strengthens those she touches.  She knows of her gift and values the opportunities she has to care.  In the last years she has grown in her awareness of the importance of certain practices that sustain her and allow her to exercise her gift more fully.  She has learned that failure to honor her need for the practices diminishes what she can receive, hear, and give.

Off-and-on-attention to playing basketball or exercising a gift doesn’t give you all that is possible.  It takes dedication and care.  Having an attuned spiritual life also takes that kind of serious commitment and faithful practice.  You can have something regardless, because God is loving, gracious, and merciful.  But there is so much more if you make the commitment and attend to the necessary practice.

Queries:

To what, or to whom, are you dedicated and how is that expressed?

What do you need to do to sustain in you a faithful life?

Prayer:

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long” (Psalm 25: 4-5).

For further reference:

“No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.   You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6: 24).

“. . . let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross. . .” (Hebrews 12: 1b-2a).