Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wisdom Walking

My wife and I are in Seattle for a week visiting our daughter and son-in-law. We’re also doing some hiking in preparation for our Ireland pilgrimage with Vox Peregrini in less than a month. Today we walked a bit more than seven miles. We walked from our daughter’s house to Beaver Lake. Near the Lake I spotted this tree. It reminds me of a tree in Ireland near Knockree. The tree is ancient. It has to be more than 200 years old. And though the core of the tree has died, its wisdom remains, Like The Tree of Life.

Walking in the midst of creation is an opportunity to gain wisdom from ancients. I have learned so much on my pilgrimage experiences from the wisdom of the trees as well as the mountains, birds, and animals. The souls of nature can teach us so much if we can listen deeply at a soul level. Our soul listening to the soul of the tree.

This kind of listening is a process that begins with being consciously aware of our surroundings. First, we must use our five senses to be fully connected to our experience. What do I see? I have to be looking for the Tree of Life. I have to stop. What does the tree feel like? Can I smell it? Do I dare taste it? If I am intimate and vulnerable in the presence of the tree—then she might speak to me. Especially if she thinks I am listening. If I listen carefully, I might gain some deeper truth of wisdom.

The process of wisdom walking has four phases, of which sensing is the first. We move from sensing to thinking, then feeling, and finally into the phase of imagination. The final phase is where we can hear deeply from creation and learn from those nuggets she has to teach us. I believe wisdom walking is an alchemical pilgrimage. Turning the raw experience of our journey into golden wisdom. This sensing phase is akin to the blackening of alchemy. The interesting thing about this tree is that it was struck by lightening. The interior was scorched. Still, in this black phase, this tree has much to teach me. The tree has endured to share her wisdom with those who pass by. What did I hear? Truthfully, it only matters to me. In the same way, what you hear is for your ears only. I can tell you this, her blackened interior had a sweet taste.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Homeless Holy Spirit

A normal Sunday morning at St. Augustine’s in Tempe usually includes a handful of homeless folks who show up for cup of coffee, a few snacks, a gift card to the local grocery, and communion. The homeless seem to enjoy the safe space. The parish folks are kind and hospitable. Matthew 25:35 is our guide—when we entertain those in need, we entertain Jesus.

A few weeks ago we had a typical Sunday morning that turned even more entertaining. One of our regular homeless visitors, though, was acting a bit out of character. His paradoxical behavior appeared to be sparked by his rare sobriety. During worship service he always sits at the back. This Sunday he sat up front. He and his friends are quiet during the service. This Sunday he commented on my sermon—his timing was impeccable. What he said was probably what other people were thinking just they were unwilling to say it out loud. Then after the Peace we offer blessings. None of the homeless had ever come forward for a birthday, anniversary, or memorial blessing. This Sunday he stepped up for a blessing. Actually he wanted to address the congregation, but I asked him to face me and tell me what he had to say. Of course he spoke loud enough for everyone to hear, which was fine. He told me about the difficulty of his life and how he was trying to do the hard work of making life better. I prayed for him. He thanked me and returned to his seat. A poignant moment—all was well.

At the celebration of communion, I was in my normal place offering the Eucharistic Prayer, facing the people behind the altar. Somewhere in the middle of that Prayer, I saw our friend moving towards the communion rail to my right. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of the ushers walk up front and quietly ask him to return to his seat. I could see the homeless man follow the usher to the back. A few minutes later, I felt a presence from my behind my right side approaching the altar. While continuing the Eucharistic Prayer I caught a glimpse of the homeless man tip-toeing across the area behind me. I fully expected him to be standing at my side in a moment. Then from my left, I saw the movement of our music leader heading towards the man. The homeless man quietly followed our musician. The usher was now on the left side of church to help escort the homeless back to his seat. At the distribution of communion, the homeless man was kneeling in front of me, with a curious and happy smile. His face had a gentle feminine hint to it at that moment.

After the service, the usher, our music leader, and I were having a good laugh about the whole affair. The musician, a monk, deacon, and soon to be priest, said, “Ah, the wily Holy Spirit, she showed up today, masking as a homeless man. She is so funny.” Indeed. We never know who will be entertained this day.