Arizona – Our Roadtrip 2019

You may remember I last wrote about the wildflowers on the Arizona border. From there we made our way to Flagstaff for a couple of nights. The plan was to see Sedona without paying Sedona lodging fees! One sighting amusing to me was a tractor trailer company that moved mobile homes. Both appropriate and amusing that it was called “La Casa!” They were based in Las Cruces but worked in much of New Mexico and Arizona. There are many mobile homes in the Southwest. I prayed they all had air conditioning and good heat with the huge temperature ranges out there.

It was a nice drive to Sedona, though I am uncertain if we ever found the road we were actually looking for! We did find the Chapel of the Holy Cross, April 6, 2019.

National Register of Historic Places

Built in 1956 it was inspired in 1932 by Marguerite Brunswick Staude decades before the perfect location was finally found. Final design by architects Anshen & Allen, completed 1957.

Along curving walkway to the entrance. Plaque quotes “And He shall give His angels charge over you to keep you in all of your ways. Psalm 91:11”

So to enter you climb a steep walkway up the to the precipice where the chapel is built. It is a lovely chapel. On the inside it is small, and the Catholic diocese eventually moved to another site to accommodate their congregational size. The crucifix in the chapel is not the original one which was said to be too strange. I found this one unusal and also a bit strange.

First off, I believe Christ has risen from the dead so the entire idea of showing his body still on the cross disturbs me. I like the cross with a living Christ the best. The image of the cross is actually an apple tree! If you look closely you can see the apples still upon it. (Think Adam and Eve in the garden?) I thought that quite creative as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:45 (NRSV)  Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

So perhaps in the keeping of a life-giving spirit or because it was just weird Sedona, this “corpus” has his eyes open!

If you look closely you can see the light reflected in his eyes.
By messing with the colors in the original photo, perhaps you can see the eyes better?

On the curved walk back down to the parking area there was a slow going crowd. Another lady and myself noticed this little pine tree.

It did not seem to be planted there purposely like the flowers on the way up. It inspired us with the hope of “never give up!” Even little trees can take root in mighty red rocks and flourish.

Wood Thrush

One of my favorite birds is the Wood Thrush. Not much to look at and easily confused at a glance with other brown birds, but boy oh boy can this one sing!! Here is a tiny clip. There are times I think it sounds like corillion bells.

Recently after the torrential spring rains, we saw one rolling on the sidewalk a bit aways from our front porch. My husband asked, “What in the world is that bird doing?” I looked and said, “Likely he is rolling in dust to clean his feathers. With all the rain it is probably hard to find dust in the woods!” Thrush must have sensed us watching him because he soon took off for the woods. In fact, we rarely see this fellow. Secretive, but a lovely minstrel!

Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; wherever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country and the gates of Heaven are not shut against him.

American Naturalist Henry David Thoreau writing about the Wood Thrush

Often in the brutal heat of this summer weather on my way to the garbage can or getting out of the car I will hear this bird and then I SO agree with Thoreau. It has been way too hot and too many allergy triggers out there to have the windows open. Maybe it will cool off soon so I can hear it from inside, too!

Some Methods To Find Those Treasures In Plain Sight

Discussing meditation and contemplative prayer and all these other terms can sometimes distract us from actually doing the practice. Mark Buchanan is a wonderful author who often expresses things in a way I had not previously thought about. His book The Holy Wild mentions this:

“Our creativity, at least in part, comes from resting in His creativity until it seeps in. It springs from prayer. Not the busy chatty prayer we often do, but the other kind: prayer as emptiness, prayer as silence, prayer as stillness. Prayer as the absence of wanting and asking. Not the clamoring man waking his neighbor, desperate for bread (LK 11:5), but the suckled child curled up, satisfied in the mother’s arms (PS 131:2).

“Sometimes I just sit there. I don’t speak or ask or think. I watch, devoid of analysis. I just sit and look.

“I let things be, and I simply dwell in their presence. Where there is music or poetry or artistry in these things, I receive it without comment or lament, without the impulse to possess it or explain it. There is nothing mystical about this. This is not a slipping toward pantheism, where every rock bluff or grass tuft brims with divinity. This is simply an act of reverence for the God who makes things, and respect for all that He makes.

 “God’s creativity is, in one sense, the most obvious thing about Him. He saves His most intricate work for the insides and undersides of things. (Molly’s favorite part of the ocean is the underside of waves!)

Richard Rohr has also at times taken as his guide in prayer a simple phrase: “Don’t think. Just look.” He wrote in Near Occasions of Grace “Father McNamara’s definition of contemplation became transformative: “A loving look at the real.” The world, my own issues and hurts, all goals and desires gradually dissolved into proper perspective. God became obvious and everywhere.”

He says “To Practice This Today: Take a loving look at the real. Use the phrase “Don’t think. Just look.” as a reminder throughout the day.”

Often I think of the view out the window nearest to my prayer chair as a cathedral. Not one built of stone and wood, but the most important place of worship. The biggest sanctuary in the area! I dare you to try these methods of prayer, if not for an entire day, then start with 15 minutes. “Don’t think. Just look.” Just sit and look, especially if you can be out of doors. “Rest in God’s creativity. Prayer as emptiness, silence, stillness.” You will never know the benefits until you try this repeatedly. Devote 15 minutes to this practice for one week. And be blessed by a renewed awareness of God’s Presence, within and without.

About jumped out of my skin just now.

While I am typing I have my phone timer set on the silly duck sound, Kay’s favorite on her phone. I keep setting the timer for changing the outdoor hose. My plants are suffering from our near drought conditions. Writing the blog I was deep into trying to explain the practice above and the benefits of meditation and contemplative prayer. I am home alone. That phone quacked and I nearly jumped out of my skin! My Prayer Core-Group friends are never far from my mind! TURN UP YOUR VOLUME TO EMULATE MY EXPERIENCE!

So, just a reminder, to try this practice but also stay aware of the things around you so you might not be as startled as I was just now!

Sometimes a Writer Must Work and Wait

I have been working to read and then copy out selections from Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” That book had a huge impact upon me years ago when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. For those who have followed this and my other blog I mentioned the book a while ago. Since I continue to age (better than the alternative) and the future is uncertain regarding this shoulder, which means our summer, and then our trip to Cape Cod in the autumn, and on and on it goes in uncertainty – seemed like the right time to take up the project. I had ordered a used copy of the book but it was SO old that pages were crumbling as I read. So I got a newer copy and have completed the part entitled Experiences in a Concentration Camp. Now this might seem totally depressing to some, but Frankl is worth reading. He writes from the viewpoint of a psychiatrist and a prisoner about what happens to humans when choices are removed. This chapter is about 145 pages in a smaller paperback, so not too difficult to accomplish. He actually writes from experience. Bob’s Dad was part of the Liberation Army in WWII and set some of the camps free. I have wondered if he was one of the soldiers who freed Doctor Viktor Frankl?

Frankl focuses repeatedly on the fact that the last of human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstance. Hopefully, my synthesis of his insights will come forth in future blogging.

The attitude choice has come home to me again personally as I wait for diagnosis of the problem in my shoulder after the fall in the living room. I get to choose my attitude. I am NOT always sweet and kind and uncomplaining. When I get weary from pain and frustration I often want to just go crawl under a rock where I will not hurt anyone with my misunderstood tone of voice or sour attitude. Today I will focus on what Scripture says about waiting.

 Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!  I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.  The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.  It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the LORD.

Lamentations 3:22-26 (HCSB)

His mercies never end – even when we are irritable. His mercies are new every morning – He knows so well I will need a daily dose! His faithfulness far exceeds mine.

The Lord is my portion, therefore I put my hope in Him. Well, what else can I say? I trust the doctors and MRI, but He is my highest and best hope, my most thorough Physician. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him. I wonder HOW many times we are admonished to wait for Him in Scripture? Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. In returning and rest I am saved; in quietness and trust will be my strength. Be still, and KNOW that He is God.

Jeremiah ends with “It is good to wait QUIETLY for deliverance from the Lord.” I know a woman who is waiting for healing from a second back-to-back Shingles infection. I know a man waiting to find out if the purchase of the home he wants will go through. I know others waiting to heal after surgery, waiting for back pain to let up and be healed, waiting for a church dedication and celebration after hours and hours of hard outdoor work, waiting to plant their crops after history-making flooding. Some are waiting for asylum in America fleeing violence in their homeland, another waiting to finalize a divorce after a miserable marriage.

As humans we do not generally wait well or quietly. Perhaps remembering His mercies are new daily and His steadfast love for us never changes can help carry us over the bumps and crashes of our dreams in life.

When your particular house of cards comes down, remember that no one EVER said “I want to be ill this summer”, or “I want to be waiting weeks on end for an answer .” Ever. So along with me, rest, wait, hope and watch for a manifestation of His love in our presence.

Husband is a Treasure

I have a bad habit of kicking off my shoes and not putting them away. Caught up with me last Sunday night. I was getting ready for bed and remembered I needed to enter one more portion of water on my Fitbit app. My phone was charging in the living room. I entered the data. Turned to go to the bedroom and tripped over a sandal. I went down in a huge way! My husband could only watch me fall. There was no time to get up and try to stabilize me before I crashed into the floor.

Turned small toes on left foot under and smashed down on them as I went down bodily. Skidded left knee across the carpet, then left elbow, then smashed down on left shoulder. Saw stars as shoulder lit up in electric explosion. Slammed jaw on the carpet as I hit the floor. BUT thank goodness I did not hit my head, though I came very, very close!

My sweet husband was by my side instantly. Mind you I once fell in the Smoky Mountains at the end of Abrams Falls trail on a wet rock. That time we had to hike 4.9 miles back to the car and me with a dislocated right shoulder. So we were both a bit fearful of the extent of my injuries this time.

Nothing seemed broken as he slowly helped me sit up on the floor. Then slowly helped me stand and get to the sofa to sit down. He bandaged my knee and went to get some ice crushed for an ice bag. Bandaged my arm where forearm had busted open from the impact. Put me to bed with Tylenol and prayers for healing and comfort and another soft ice pack.

We saw a shoulder surgeon Monday as I was unable to lift my left arm without tremendous pain, and then not all the way up. MRI of shoulder is scheduled in case it does not get better in a week “after the dust settles” from the fall. Possible rotator cuff injury. If not better, MRI will determine if surgery is needed and exactly where.

So I am spending most of my time editing past posts. That has been encouraging as I have read, again, how the Lord has sustained me through the past. Acute pain is a bear when it comes on top of chronic pain. I am determined to trust and follow where I am led through this ordeal.

Moral of the story: put your shoes away and trust in the Lord regardless of what comes your way! Even if it involves a mess you made.

Pain is exhausting and I do not know how much more I will actually create today, but you will know by what I do or do not post! When people ask me in stores, “May I help you?” my typical response is “Yes. I need all the help I can get!” Please lift me in prayer until this is resolved. Thanks, Molly

The Big Trip – Las Vegas Area

Las Vegas. Oy. I do not have much good to say about the downtown gambling areas. We went during the week for cheaper room rates. Used it as our base location to visit both the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest area and Death Valley.

We stayed at the Grand Hotel in “Old Vegas.” Bob took his quarters hoping to use them up with the slot machines. Disappointed that the machines all take paper money now and issue a paper voucher for your winnings. No rattling coins when there was a winner, but plenty of lights and noise! We were easy walking distance to the Fremont Avenue canopy that formed a pedestrian-only gambling mall. At night we saw zip line riders overhead, so many flashing neon lights coordinated with music for six minutes on the hour. Too many weird people. Women in scanty clothes and men too aroused for public display (in my opinion). We were amazed that tourists were there with their children. I never would have exposed my daugher to such behavior as a child or even as a teenager! Yes, I am old and fond of my values.

The “Strip” with the mega-hotels was also not to our liking. Bob was driving and the traffic was awful. Then a truck with a huge advertisement made with led lights pulled in front of us. It literally hurt our eyes. The sidewalks were crammed as bad or worse as the Avenues in New York. People shoulder to shoulder with shopping bags and jaws agape. We did not go into any of the huge hotels as parking was at a premium and we decided we were just not THAT interested.

The drive to the west of Las Vegas was so interesting. We were looking for Red Rock Canyon and did not manage to find it. But we found the scenic road into the National Forest and Charleston Peak Ski area. The cactus were blooming and very fragrant.

Notice one on the hilltop, too!

We noticed the cactus stopped growing at about 7000 feet in elevation, at least in this area. We drove to an elevation of 8,437 feet.

More new sights!

Words and Blog and Death

I am planning to close one of my blog sites and thinking about getting the blog printed so I do not lose the hard work and thought I have put into that. Perhaps one day my grandchildren would want to read it to learn more about me? Discovering entire worlds of on-line services to pay for to get ready to publish and then to actually print. Yikes. Decisions, decisions.

Then I am face-to-face with the reminder that no one will get out of this world alive unless the Lord comes soon. From my journal:

“Judy has died from cancer. Homer dead of cancer. Betty dead of old age and cancer form. Sonia’s mom dead from cancer. Surrounded by death of folks older and younger than me. Disposing of trapped chipmunks, killed on purpose by us.

1 Corinthians Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed,  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

1 Corinthians 15:51-55 (NRSV)

“Death and life, intertwined. There are just sometimes that the death is more clear than other times when we try to forget it, put it out of our minds, pretend it is not always near. No wonder the men in the NT Bible story did not want to help the man beaten, robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. It brought home the fact it could happen to any one of us and death is always near.

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

Luke 10:30-32 (NRSV)

“I fertilized new shoots I should not have fertilized. I too kill things. And I will die someday, the day the Lord has appointed for me. “

So perhaps it is important to preserve the blog writings for the next generation to read after my death? Or is it all words? Would I have liked a record of where my parents went in Michigan when they went fishing there years before I was born? Heck yes! All I have is a postcard they sent my uncle which I did not see until his daughters sent it to me after his death.

Is this the best way to spend my saved money? Perhaps it will be valued by my offspring in the future? Maybe not saving it is like killing those new shoots in the garden. The killing was accidental, yet still they are dead. Do I let those words and thoughts that have come out of me go – just perish in the dust of on-line words? Perhaps that is not a good use of my funds or talent.

Oh my, conundrum after conundrum. Would Judy’s boys cherish a memoir from their mother now that she is gone? Perhaps my adult children might cherish one?

I wrote this several years after my mother died suddenly.

Oh the ache
The wrenching tear at your heart
When you want to share joy
With one who has passed over.

Oh the void
When those too familiar arms
Are no longer there
To embrace you.

Tonight I shared an experience
With my daughter
That I once shared
With my mother
“Ice Capades,” with this wondrous four year old!

If my granddaughter ever delights
In the swirling spangles
And enchanted wonderland on ice,
I pray both she and my daughter be spared
The anguish I feel tonight.

Perhaps the future generations of our family might know the joys and challenges of my life by reading what a wrote about this past year. Guess I will pursue publishing. Scary.