For those of you who’ve missed my regular posts and Sunday Morning Tune-ups, I’ve been away on what you might call a spiritual retreat. I found the perfect place, as you may be able to tell from the picture, in the community of Esterbrook at the foot of Laramie Peak in Wyoming. I sojourned on a mountain top in order to go as deep into the well of myself as I could. It’s amazing what one can find when one looks in the right places. Good Sunday Morning Dear Friend…
The Quonset Hut
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. ~ Psalms 1
One of the easiest things in life to get used to, is easy. Easy is a place most of us will choose when given the choice between the easy way, and the hard way. I told a group friends recently, “Having been raised in the same world with the same values and principles as each of you, I have come to a place where I can no longer reconcile these values and principles with the world around me. So I will be sojourning to an isolated place in the mountains of Wyoming…to listen.” It is hard to leave the people we’ve grown to love, the places of comfort and routine, and those things that become habit. But sometimes it is necessary to break away in order to regain your bearings…especially when feeling the growing sense that too many things just aren’t right. Chiropractors would say, “out of alignment”, “in need of adjustment” and things like that. Mechanics warn us about wearing out our tires as the result of poor alignment. And then there’s the doctors and nutritionists we rely on, who might warn us when we are making unhealthy choices and living unhealthy lifestyles that could ultimately require pharmaceutical or surgical treatment…introducing a whole new set of issues.
I realized, as a Christian man, that my life had drifted out of alignment as measured by the Psalms 1 benchmark. If we can know and understand how our bodies will express poor health when misaligned through bad habits and poor choices, isn’t it reasonable to question the quality of our expression in relationship to the world around us as a result of our own spiritual misalignment? It’s easy to ignore our “out of alignment” situation in much the same way as an alcoholic experiences denial. But we become out-of-tune guitars to the ears of friends and family…sounding good mostly to other poorly aligned folks…and the ever-wilting crop of enablers and sympathizers.
I will tell you from experience, that when you come to the ultimate “between a rock and a hard place” moment in your life, if your heart is open to the light it will enter in. When you cast off denial with a final conviction, the “Just When You Think” Angels respond. The random tumblers of events will fall into place to reveal the runway lights, just as they did to show me the way to Esterbrook, Wyoming…right around the time the Pope was touching down on American soil for the very first time in his life.
Now you should know a little about Esterbrook and how I came to land here, to appreciate the divine plan behind it all. My friend Clay the woodcarver discovered it some years ago as a place to relocate his family and business, if he could just find enough customers. So he had been spending May through September for the past two years, leaving his family in Sugar Loaf New York, to drive out here and live with the friends who would become family, renting out the Stan Sherman Quonset Hut which is a life lesson, in and of itself! Stan had built a well-provisioned fortress that could accommodate his family, all 35 of his year-round neighbors, survive any and all imaginable disasters…and then passed away from cancer.
Esterbrook is a mountain-top community of mostly retired couples with one church and one bar; Dee and Larry’s Esterbrook Lodge. The beers used to slide from one end of the bar to the other on their own, until Clay designed and built them a brand new bar top which is now the only level structure in a bar so authentically rustic, you half expect Kit Carson or Bill Cody to wander in while you’re there! The people are so friendly, you wonder if there’s something wrong with them after having lived for so long in New York. As fate would have it, the “Hut” would be my sanctuary of solitude, the perfect “hearing post” for the next couple of weeks, as Clay departed for Sugar Loaf two days after I arrived.
Now brace yourself, as I told my friend Pastor Bill from New York, for the “Holy Goose Bumps”! Part of my reason for coming here was to give myself and those I love most the space to find “clarity” and reasons to believe. So on the Sunday morning immediately following my thirty hour drive to Esterbrook, Clay and I attended my very first Esterbrook Community Church service with the one and only Pastor Kirby Kudlak. Here’s where the “Holy Goose Bumps” come in. The scripture readings were from Proverbs 31 “The Good Wife”, Psalms 1 or what I like to call “The Good Man”, James 3:13 “Meekness of Wisdom” and James 4:8 “Draw nearer to God, and God will draw nearer to you.” And finally, Mark 9:30-37, what I like to call “It’s not about you!” So, in other words, God freeze-framed my life and marriage into a portrait I could step back and examine in order to identify my misalignment and realize my priorities were out-of-whack!
It should be noted, if you ever consider taking such a journey…you are more than likely to experience a spiritual turbulence I call transitional anxiety when entering into this place of decompression. I believe it is caused by the part of you holding on to the part of you needing to let go. The degree by which you are out of alignment, will most likely determine the degree of anxiety you will likely experience in your transition. For me it came on the first night on the mountain in the worst nightmares I’ve ever experienced. It also manifested itself in feelings of inferiority that came over me in the first day, which I interpreted as my ego attempting to drag me back from my adventure to the home of “old familiar”! Not so fast, I told myself! ;-)