Encounters with God and the TCT

I started this blog November 13th, 2016, right after the presidential election with the article Understanding Elitism for Non-elites.   A local politician who reads my sometimes lengthy Facebook posts encouraged me to start one because she thought my writing was thought provoking.  Even though most everything about the impetus behind this work was political I never intended it to be dominated by politics.  I wanted to write about the big three “no nos;” those subjects that you should never bring up among polite company or at dinner parties:  Politics, religion, and money.  Unfortunately, just as our social media has been dominated by politics, so too has this blog and I want to change that.  If you haven’t read my bio yet, beyond being a political news junkie I am also a Christian, a P.K., the son of a United Church of Christ minister.  Much more than a news junkie, I am a God junkie and today’s entry springs from that place of passion.

It was my pleasure to attend a meeting last night where I heard a local pastor talking about dealing with day to day stresses.  She asked us, “When you are under pressure, where do you go to find your happy place?”  She sent the question around the room and one by one we volunteered an answer.  I was amazed at the number of people who mentioned getting outdoors into nature.  It had to be well above 80% and I was one of them.

forest

Indoors is the domain of mankind, a place where the mind is lord and most everything you survey is the creation of humans.  It is easy to lose your soul indoors.  Blame it on my Celtic heritage, but the outdoors is tremendously spiritual to me and especially the woodlands.  I have been greatly blessed to have escaped the urban and suburban environs of my youth to settle and thrive in the beautiful hills of Berkshire County of Western Massachusetts.  All around me the Creation bristles with life and the voice of God rustles through the tree tops as nature itself heaves a self-satisfying sigh.

I have lived in this paradise for over thirty years but it wasn’t until this past year that I began hiking the Taconic Crest Trail.  The TCT is a 35 mile long footpath that begins in New Lebanon, NY on Lebanon Mountain and skips across the tops of the Taconic Mountain range, weaving in and out of Massachusetts and New York until it descends to its conclusion in Pownal, Vermont.  Because it is a crest trail, you are treated to some great views at various locations along the way and the most unusual other-worldly light.  It’s this strange light that draws me to the trail more than anything else and keeps me coming back.

The most dramatic manifestation of the Light appears on the section between the town of Hancock and the Petersburgh pass.  I am sure that some expert in physics could explain it scientifically but I have no interest in hearing it.  I go into the woods to lose my mind.  I am there to escape the experts of the world.  Experts are the enemies of wonder and my soul is starved for wonder.  When we were children we were so happy, in part because our hearts were full of wonder.  Faith came naturally then and we were easily pleased.  As adults, even the awesome miracle of the night sky can be washed away by some cosmologist droning on in academic-speak until every last drop of inspiration has been wrung from our hearts.   When I am in the woods I am like a prisoner on a jail break.  “Run like the wind Barry, lest the intellectual jailers and their dogs catch you!”

This past October my wife and I ascended to the TCT from Madden Road in Hancock, MA.  It took us almost an hour to get to the top.  I am in my fifties and not particularly thin. (chuckle)  It was a long difficult climb with no respite until we reached the crest.  When we got there the glory was in the woods eagerly waiting to greet us; an other-worldly light that came in from all sides as well as down from the sky.  It surrounded us like a mist but it wasn’t water vapor, it was light.  We took a number of pictures but none of them do it justice.  You have to make the long hard climb to the crest yourself if you want to see the Light in its true glory.

grandeur

glory-in-the-woods

How true is this of spiritual life as well?  He who said, “When you come looking for me you will find me,” is seldom sought by modern mankind in any meaningful way.  In between texts and Facebook notifications there are moments of brief pause but they are insufficient to find anything other than the next distraction for our minds.

Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”

We are so easily disappointed in our search for contact with the Creator because we just want it, we don’t want it want it.  We don’t want to invest an hour of our time and sweat to reach the crest of the trail where the glory light lives.  We don’t want to turn off our phones and fully engage in the dance with our heavenly lover.  Yes! The Groom loves his bride but he will not suffer disrespect on the dance floor while she checks her Twitter feed and the guests of heaven look on aghast.

Making contact with our Creator is not impossible and the path that leads to the glory is not unknown.  You have to want it want it.  Step one is to thirst and hunger for his presence.  Whether you realize it or not, you are probably already there.  Most people are dying of spiritual thirst but they have either habituated to it, self-medicated to cope with it, or have mistaken it for something else.  That proverbial hole in your heart that the band Extreme sang about, that’s the hunger and the thirst.  Nothing on this Earth will suffice to satisfy you in the innermost being. NOTHING!

Step two is to pursue satisfaction.  When you are physically hungry or thirsty you stop whatever you are doing and go eat or drink something, you take action.  The problem is that God does not generally meet you during a commercial break.  You can’t get up from the couch at your convenience and pull a leftover slice of God out of the fridge for a quick snack.  (chuckle)

Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”

“Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”  My pagan ancestors would go into the woods, casting off their clothes as they went, as though cloth could be a hindrance.  They wanted nothing to come between themselves and the divine.  In this exposed and vulnerably honest state, they would engage in rituals in a vain attempt to touch the hem of the garment of the One whom they did not yet know.  I glean a valuable lesson from the Celts of Ireland, you’ve got to want it want it to the point of vulnerability and naked honesty.  The Creator knows our hearts and he will not be bull-shitted.  He knows who is thirsty to the point of passionate pursuit and who is just casually curious.   The casual seeker will seldom find what they are looking for but the One whose hem we seek to touch said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

I pray that these faulty and inadequate words I have written today will inspire your heart to pursue your Creator.  Where I have lacked, I pray that God would overflow.  My desire is his desire, that you would come to experience the love of God that is beyond human reasoning.  May you choose to respond to your hunger and thirst by taking action, not casually, but passionately with perseverance.  If you dedicate the time and sweat to make the ascent to the crest of the trail; when you seek him more than anything else in life; you will find a glory waiting for you there.  You will not be disappointed, he guarantees it.


A friend of mine dubbed me “The voice of reason in a very unreasonable world” which I am flattered by because I am less than that.  Having said that, if you enjoyed my writing I invite you to scroll to the very bottom of this page where there is a button labeled “Follow”.   If you press that button you will receive a notification whenever this blog is updated with new posts.  Thank you for reading.  

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