What I Learned Though I Fear Heights

Ever since sliding to the garage floor on an unsecured ladder at about age 6 or 8 I have feared heights. When I heard on the news in 2017 about this guy climbing in Yosemite National Park without ropes to secure him I was terrified on his behalf. Bob had taken me to visit Yosemite on one of our many trips to California. I knew the height of those summits. In my eyes he attempted and accomplished the impossible. In this short but entertaining eleven minute talk you can learn more about him in his own words.

Wikipedia reports that “In 2016, he was subjected to Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans that revealed that, unlike other high sensation seekers, his amygdala barely activates when watching disturbing images. He however confesses feeling fear occasionally. Through imagination and practice, he has desensitized himself to most fearful situations.” MacKinnon, J. B. (June 28, 2018). “The Strange Brain of the World’s Greatest Solo Climber”Nautilus. Retrieved May 11, 2021

He said, “Doubt is the precursor of fear.” On the video I watched as he climbed Half Dome inch by inch. I remembered Peggy Snapp telling me ‘Life by the mile is a trial. Life by the inch is a cinch.’ In the documentary Alex told how he practiced for years. He practiced the handholds going up the rock face with ropes before he tried the free solo ascents.

Before trying the most sensational solo climb he literally practiced for ten years. And now, my challenge is becoming more clear. Am I willing to practice letting pain draw me into God’s Presence even if it takes ten years to feel as if I have accomplished that? Am I willing to return to the Lord over and over again, asking forgiveness for complaining and grace to begin again? The Benedictines say, “Always, we begin again.” They put that truth in a minimum of words and I thank them for that reminder!

Through imagination and practice can I desensitize myself to the disappointment of returning chronic pain? Am I willing to try? Discipline and practice. Oh those do not come easily. Can I become as unflappable and steady as Pat M.W.? Will I push back on the gloom laden cloud of discouragement that often threatens to enshroud me? Am I truly willing to let Jesus in me increase and ask that I decrease, making more space for His rule and reign?

In Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zin writes about the research and findings from teaching heart patients and cancer patients the practice of mindfulness for pain relief and stress relief.

I have the meditation recordings from this book. I used to own the book, but when we moved I let it go. Will I choose to listen to these recordings and bring myself from the panic of nerve pain to the centered life of returning and rest?

Lord, I do not expect to be a world record breaking solo climber. I do not seek any recognition at all. I simply want to live for You, to love and serve You and not be consumed by the physical sensations of my aging body. Help me to, like Paul, choose to “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

How are You Discerning and Enhancing ?

This is a portion from a devotional entitled Connect the Testaments, by John D. Barry

Unless we know God, we’re incapable of successfully doing His work. We must be willing to talk to God honestly about our relationships, as the psalmist does in Psalm 119:69–72. The psalmist acknowledges that he needs God’s help in all matters of his relationship with God and all matters of his relationship with others. He understands that he cannot even begin to know God without the power of God helping him.
“We must be empowered for action, both in the intimacy of prayer and in the reality of relationships. And we must support what we believe with our works, as the letter of James call us to do: “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:14–26).
“Reflecting regularly on how God has worked with us and is working in us allows us to recognize that everything in our lives has a purpose. God often works in others through us, and that great calling requires us to have knowledge of Him and discernment about His workings in our world.
How are you discerning the great work of God in your life? How are you enhancing your knowledge of God?

A soon to be neighbor was in town touring her home being built across the street from us. On occasion we have traded texts or emails. She has shared a bit about her faith and a prayer group she was involved in for decades. We have occasionally taken photos for her showing her the progress of the house she and her husband have planned. Having recently moved, I am acutely aware of how easy it is to get caught up in the details and the utter work involved in relocating and forgetting to ask the Lord not only to be involved, but to keep me aware of His interest and care.

After she left the neighborhood I felt compelled to write her an email affirming that the Lord knows her heart and is interested in helping her pack and move. I did not respond to that prompting immediately. When the Holy Spirit reminded me again I decided I had better get on it. So I wrote her a quick note encouraging her to turn to Him. By her response it seems I heard correctly and helped her turn her eyes towards Him in this relocating matter. We used to live 8 miles from our new home. She lives about 150 miles away. So besides the sort, store, give away, sell, pack and move, she cannot just take a break and drop in to see the progress. And then we are turned to Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;

 in all your ways submit to Him,

    and he will make your paths straight.

(or direct your paths)

Trust, lean not on your own, submit or acknowledge and He will direct your ways. As the commercial for cereal used to say, “Try it, you’ll like it!”

The Prince of Peace is able to quiet and comfort our hearts like no other.

Commune and My Heart

Amy Carmichael wrote Edges of His Ways and this little book continues to inspire me year after year. The reading for July 5 is based on Exodus 25:22 “There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat.”

She wrote: In reading Exodus 25 I suddenly saw this, not a new thing, but you can imagine how it shone out: That which comes nearest and dearest of all unhindered communion with our God is based on His revealed will, accepted and obeyed. “The testimony that I shall give thee,” He told Moses, was to be put in the Ark, above which was to be the mercy seat. “And there I will meet with thee and will commune with thee.”

It is the old prayer again: “Teach me to do Thy will.” I want to learn more and more what the small word “do” means as carried out in life. It is so much easier to pray about doing, and to talk to others about it, and to sing about it, than it is simply and honestly to do that very thing. But the prayer is not, Teach me to pray about it, talk about it, sing about it, though prayer and talk and song have their place, it is “Teach me to do Thy will.” Then comes that beautiful, blessed “There I will meet with thee and will commune with thee.”

I am not even going to post an image of the mercy seat. There are images online, but I think the Lord and Moses would see it differently. This song began rolling about in my soul as I read her writing and pondered it for my life.

Teach me to do Your will, my Lord. Mold me and make me into Your image. Help me to yield to Your touch and learn to do Your will, even when I do not like the idea. I know that dislike at first is not the same as disobedience. As long as I follow hard after You, You will help me to do Your will and joy will come in the doing.

Strange Book

I just finished a strange book. Evidently in 2008 it was made into a movie. The title is Blindness by Josè Saramago. He won the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature from this publication. I saw it on a “must read” list and bought it used from Abe Books (my favorite source for used books!).

It was haunting and written with very, very little punctuation. I told Bob it was like St. Paul with his run on sentences. In light of the Corona Virus Pandemic it was relatable. One person goes suddenly blind and then another and another until there is a pandemic. The text was translated from the Portuguese. It was worth my time. I kept wondering where the story was going and then found I could not put the book down. Blew through it in a couple of days.

The Library Journal says “Beautifully written in a concise, haunting prose … this unsettling, highly original work is essential reading.”

No, it was not a Christian publication. I often venture into other areas to broaden my views. You might want to check your library for it.

Having told you about my fear of one of us dying from Covid before we get to the new house, thought I’d share this quote with you. Here is a small portion towards the end of the book:

“I think we are all going to die, it’s just a matter of time, dying has always been a matter of time said the doctor, But to die just because you’re blind, there can be no worse way of dying. We die of blindness and cancer, of blindness and tuberculosis, of blindness and AIDS, of blindness and heart attacks, illnesses may differ from one person to another but what is really killing us now is blindness. We are not immortal, we cannot escape death, but at least we should not be blind, said the doctor’s wife, How, if this blindness is concrete and real, said the doctor, I am not sure, said the wife, Nor I, said the girl with the dark glasses.”

Evidently he went on to write Seeing and at least 10 other publications.

Holy Week – What is A Christian To Do?

I have spent most of my life following Jesus. One of my greatest Christian teachers was Francis of Assisi. He chose to be stripped of possessions and riches and to follow Christ unhindered by things. For several years I was a Third Order Franciscan through the Episcopal church. Recently my friend, Bonnie, reminded me of a quote from Francis on his deathbed. He is purported to have said, “I have done what was mine to do. May Christ now teach you what you are to do.”

How might we go about doing that? The Book of Common Prayer Morning Prayer Rite 2 in the general thanksgiving says “…show forth Your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to Your service ….”

On Monday and Tuesdays when I do not “feel” like writing I am reminded that I give up myself to His service by writing this blog. It is mine to do. I pray what I write will encourage others to follow Jesus. I pray the things I tell about will inspire others to pull down strongholds and walk on with the Savior of our souls. I pray I might amuse others and help lift them from the doldrums of the daily grind. I struggle to put into words my relationship with a Holy God through the power of the Holy Spirit given as a result of the life, sacrifice, resurrection and then ascension of Jesus Christ.

So what is Christ asking you to do?

I have found over the years that if I feel stuck spiritually I need to go back to the last thing the Lord asked me to do, and be certain I did that.

Francis also said, “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

So there were things like: volunteer at the homeless shelter. Try to help organize the shelter donations. Set up the construction of a new donation out building. The Church carried that out.

Bonnie also quoted these steps:

  1. Do what is necessary.

2. Do what is possible.

3. Let God take care of impossible details and do as He leads.

Carry on!

But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

Gratefulness.org

Want to subscribe to a daily gratitude quote? This is the place for you! They also send out a monthly newsletter with things to challenge your spiritual growth.

Since we have been cleaning and packing I have been paying attention to things that I had not thought about in a long time, like dovetail joints on our furniture.

A recent quote read:

Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides.
ANNE LAMOTT

Makes you think doesn’t it? Barring the pandemic, why are we not more likely to be of service when that is where joy resides? And who doesn’t want more joy?

David Steindl-Rast is a Benedictine Monk and major motivator at Gratitude.org. Once he posted a challenge to write out 100 Gratitudes, not only numbering the items (What) but also asking that you detail the WHY of your gratitude. It was an interesting challenge. The first few I was more prolific on the whys than the last few. Guess I found it too hard to have to detail why I was grateful. What a spoiled brat!

Gratefulness and gratitude cannot be overstated. The practice reminds us that we are not in charge, no matter how much we want to be!

Daily Devotional

I have had this devotional for a long time. I trade out the devotionals I read. Recently this selection really spoke to me. I am learning more about trusting God and fretting less. Joy & Strength – Selections by Mary Wilder Tileston, Copyright 1901  January 25

Charles Gore: “We are conscious of our own weakness and of the strength of evil; but not of the third force, stronger than either ourselves or the power of evil, which is at our disposal if we will draw upon it. What is needed is a deliberate and wholehearted realization that we are in Christ, and Christ is in us by His Spirit; an unconditional surrender of faith to Him; a practice, which grows more natural by exercise, of remembering and deliberately drawing by faith upon His strength in the moments of temptation and not merely upon our own resources. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I will do thus and thus.” So we too may form, like St. Paul, the habit of victory.”

In practicing mindfulness I have also learned again there is great power in just pausing, especially when I feel overwhelmed, by anything. The Pause that not only refreshes but can invigorate and inspire me.

Stopping to breathe and re-collect myself.

Unconditional surrender of faith.

STOP, even if only for a moment, walking from one room through the doorway of another room – pause.

DELIBERATELY drawing by faith upon His strength.

Here is a portion of what Paul said the Lord told him recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

In Acts 10:34 Paul declared that God is no respecter of persons. He does not play favorites. From those verses we can imply that God’s grace is sufficient for each of us.

Re-posted from Dan

Here is re-post from our friends the Cookseys in New Mexico. He used the words from “Every Day Holy” as noted at the end. “Every Day Holy” is a book of liturgies for various situations. They have made some of the liturgies available on line for free. For those unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia defines liturgy as: “Liturgy represents a communal response to and participation in the sacred through activities reflecting praise, thanksgiving, remembrance, supplication or repentance. It forms a basis for establishing a relationship with a divine agency, {God}as well as with other participants in the liturgy.” With all the Covid illness this is so timely. And the world certainly needs more healthy relationships and unity! Dan has recovered from Covid. His wife, Betty, is still struggling to get her energy back. Click on the link to be blessed by this liturgy.

A Liturgy for A Sick Day — Dan and Betty’s Place

Organizing

While paring down I have also been organizing words I have saved over the years. I found a card to “Dear Mom” that I thought my son had made for me. Surprise! I had made it for my mother, likely 1958 or so. Besides my personal words, I have once again come across my collection of quotes and retreat notes that have had meaning to me. I am thinking they might touch your heart and soul, too? So periodically, I will post these for your perusal. So many of these are quotes whose author I do not have a name for – in which case I will note that fact.

In the book God Calling on May 13 it reads “What joy follows self-conquest! You cannot conquer and control others … but through God’s power you can conquer yourself.” One class I took emphasized that through obedience, at the end of the day you feel noble. Obedience to God builds self-esteem.

As the adult child of an alcoholic, after studying codependency I learned this stark lesson: We have no control over others. Children of alcoholics believe events are their fault. “If only I am good enough this will not happen.” If my grades are good enough, if I am quiet enough, and on and on with every faulty thinking pattern you can imagine. It is a hard thing for those of us who grew up this way to realize we had nothing to do with the situation. And it is also a hard belief system to UN-learn. It can lead to entrenched codependency that transfers to every person around, not just the parent where the behavior was learned.

Francis of Assisi referred to his body (i.e., himself) as brother ass. He was always trying to train that animal. He is quoted as saying, “Above all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ gives to His friends is that of CONQUERING oneself and willingly enduring suffering, insults, humiliations and hardship for the love of Christ.”

In the Revised Standard version of 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul wrote that he pummeled his body and subdued it.

Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:27 (HCSB)

Thoughts, words, habits, deeds – all of me needs discipline and I can only hope to train myself through the help of the Holy Spirit. I am the only person I can hope to control, and only with God’s help.

Come, Holy Spirit. Have Your way in and through me. Amen.

Addiction, Prayer and the 12 Steps

Who is America has not been touched with addiction in a family member or close associate? Here is a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. For years I prayed it for others not realizing that my own offspring needed the prayer, too. “For Victims of Addiction”

“O blessed Lord, You ministered to all who came to You: Look with compassion upon all who through addiction have lost their health and freedom. Restore to them the assurance of Your unfailing mercy; remove from them the fears that beset them; strengthen them in the work of their recovery; and to those who care for them, give patient understanding and persevering love. Amen.”

May God help us all.

Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable

Step 2 – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity

Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Step 4 – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5 – Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6 – Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 7 – Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9 – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step 10 – Continued to take a personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step 11 – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Step 12 – Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.