Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fire…and What Came Next

This week is a change of pace for my blog. My journey took an interesting turn this week. On Sunday night, at the end of a birthday celebration, I saw the news of Ramona’s evacuation in the face of the oncoming Witch Creek Fire that would race through the central part of San Diego County covering something close to 40 miles in less than 24 hours). I’m not sure how long before the order had been given, but I began to frantically call anyone whose number I had or remembered and got nothing but answering machines. Having served in the community for six years, I became attached to a number of those folks. While I am no longer their pastor, I am still their friend. I resolved the next day to head down to the area shelters to find and connect with these friends. Little did I know what would lay ahead.

My journey there was long…the fire had already breached the 15 Freeway on its race to the ocean. I had to detour all the way to the coast because the inland route was blocked. My search took me to Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego (soon to be home to many thousands of displaced people). What a truly extraordinary experience. I ended up spending the whole night, partly because the freeway was closed and partly because I simply couldn’t leave. I prayed with people, counseled people, moved food and supplies, tried to coordinate efforts and in other ways simply tried to be present for folks.

What I experienced was astounding. First, the City of San Diego had learned the lessons they needed to learn after the Cedar Fire four years ago. The coordination effort at the stadium was very good. Relief came on line fairly quickly. More extraordinary than that was the response of the people of the greater San Diego area. Shortly after noon a steady stream of people began to drive to the stadium. Each car and truck was loaded with relief supplies. Everything from personal hygiene products to bedding to clothing to water to food to baby supplies to pet food came pouring in in mass quantities. A company came with the ability to do cell phone charging. People had wireless internet access. Insurance companies soon arrived to begin the process of relief. Restaurants came to bring prepared food for meals. Volunteers swarmed to Qualcomm. Some had needed medical specialties which were especially important with the numbers of elderly evacuated from assisted living and skilled nursing. Some simply wanted to help. All were willing to do whatever was necessary to bring relief.

For almost 24 hours I watched and participated in the pageant of the best of the human condition. When the freeway opened up and relief arrived I was torn between wanting to stay and help and needing to go home to sleep. In the end, sleep won out, but the lessons learned, the hope experienced and the inspiration gained will carry me for a long time to come.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Drinking From a Fire Hose

An interesting by product of the growth in spirit that I’ve experienced recently has been an expanded vision. As I’ve found my center more firmly rooted in God it’s as if I’ve been able to lift my head higher and see more broadly around me. I see more and I see more clearly than I ever have before. I see myself, my ministry, my world and the path that God is stretching ahead of me with increasing clarity.

On the one hand this has been exciting. Pieces of my life, ministry and calling are coming together in ways that I’ve never before seen. It is giving me energy and focus that I’ve not had in a long time and a quality of spirituality that I’ve never had. This feeling of clarity reminds me a lot of the experience of getting a new prescription for my glasses. It isn’t as though I was totally blind with my previous glasses. The change and loss of focus was so gradual that it was almost imperceptible. It is only when the new glasses arrived that I realized just how out of focus things have become.

There is a shadow to this experience, however. As this greater clarity and energy emerges, so does an urgency to press forward. With the urgency to press forward grows the list of things that need to be done to live into and accomplish this new vision. Time becomes more and more a precious commodity. Oddly enough, what has suffered most for me these last few weeks is the intentional time with God that brought forth the greater clarity in the beginning. (Irony is a funny thing)

There is no doubt that drinking from a fire hose will satisfy the thirst of anyone who is parched. I still have to remember that too much of a good thing is as equally undesirable as the absence of it in the first place. In the midst of all that is new, exciting, stimulating, energizing and empowering I have to hold fast to my rule of life. This rule of life is more than simply a task that I’ve set for myself; I believe that it was discerned as part of my experience of God’s grace poured out through a more disciplined spiritual practice. This pattern of living while far from rigid and restrictive is nonetheless essential to living into God’s preferred future.

The learning continues. The journey continues.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Completing Another Loop

I have a strong “full-circle” feeling these days. My first posting on this blog was about experiencing silence as a spiritual discipline. I remember feeling energized and empowered as the Holy Spirit opened silence up to me. No longer was silence a dark hole that was daunting and fierce. Learning silence as an open and inviting reality in which I could know and be known more fully by God has been a gateway to a perfecting spirituality.

The strength of this experience and the impact of silence in my life and spirit are reflected in my rule of life. I’ve come to realize that it is easy for me to live life at break neck speed. When feeling pushed and stressed I can simply barrel ahead. In this mode, I put my ahead down and go. At times like this it is rare that I would even lift my head to make sure I’m going in the desired direction. Sometimes I’ve ended up in unfamiliar and even undesirable places. As I’ve consciously worked to put silence at the center of my rule of life I’m finding that is slowing me down at the times I’d be prone to barrel ahead. That period of silence, to pause and swim in the fullness of God’s presence, reorients me to the path I’m on. I’m finding great solace and strength in this discipline.

To say that I’m finding a purpose in silence is not completely accurate. To have silence at the center of my life is more than seeing silence as a tool. There is a temptation to think of this experience as “retreating” into silence. These moments of pause are anything put retreat. I have a deep desire to walk this path with God more fully and more completely. Living out of silence instead of living frantically I feel more fully grounded to the path. For so much of my life and ministry I’ve found myself running from one big idea to the next searching for something that always seemed beyond my sight and understanding. This pattern of life made for a pretty scattered existence. In the last few weeks, I’ve been learning silence as the core experience with God that takes me out of this pattern of running and searching. It’s as if I’ve discovered gravity.