The Mountains

Delphi Contrast

Early in the morning while the air was still cool we walked along the path that overhangs the side of the mountain and looked on as the sun began to lift the wispy morning fog out of the atmosphere. The mountains in the distance became more and more clear as we wound our way through the various grassy nooks that provided the foundations for ancient Greek constructions. As we snaked our way up, the temples became bigger and more marvelous. The Theater of Dionysus is carved into the stone, fairly high, on the side of the mountain and overlooks the entire mountain range. In this theater, the world is the backdrop. Even further is the gymnasium, which was created for the display of the great potential of the human body.

Only half way up I could lean over the edge to look down and barely see the tops of the trees in the wide valley below. Already I could gaze out and see the layers and layers of mountains, one after another, until they were so far away that they faded into a faint foggy blueness in the distance. If I looked directly up, I could see harsh red and grey rocky peaks peering over the top of the mountain I was currently on. Those tallest and closest to me were caked in thick, white snow. The gentle breeze around me carried the sunlight with it and made golden all it touched.

I created all the mountains and the earth, and yet I still felt the need to create you, and I love you more than all of this.

And yet as I stared out onto these great, majestic creations, I was surrounded by an outburst of flowers. White, yellow, purple, and pink delicacies sprinkled the bright green grass. As I walked by a field of yellow, I could hear the single hum of hundreds of bees doing their daily work. In other parts, birds sang out and butterflies danced in the air, stopping for an occasional rest on a stone or clover. The stark contrast between the greatness of the mountains and the delicate little flowers was a true mark of beauty.

I created all the flowers, the birds, the insects, and all the earth. Yet, I created you, and I love you more.

I understand why people would want to worship here. We understood it so well that we hiked all the way to the top of one of the highest mountains and celebrated Mass outside overlooking the mountain range and the sunset. I’ve never seen so many rich, vibrant colors at once.

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Delphi, Greece

 

I created all the mountains, flowers, sunset, and all the earth, and yet I still felt the need to create you, and I love you more than all of this.

I can’t grip it. Christ died for you and me, not for the mountains. He took the form of a man, not a flower, bird, or bee. It is humans that are marked as the crown of creation, nothing more. He created all of this, and yet, still He loves us more.

Caprice

Playa Hermosa

When I was a Sophomore in high school, I had a religion teacher who was known to be kind of odd. Mr. Thomas Carter, or Tom Cat, as we often called him, could be rather accusatory, a low-level of vicious, used his very own “Mr. Carter logic” when trying to explain things, and didn’t put up with anything but the absolute best from each individual person. This was actually (and yes, I did see this at the time) a good thing. There were not many people who would defend the Catholic Church to a bunch of 16-year-olds and we needed someone who could hold their ground as all the difficult questions were relentlessly thrown at the poor man. I think he understood that I saw the purpose in what he was doing and my interest in the church, and he frequently took care to personally challenge me in class with words and concepts no second-year high-schooler could have known. One day, he threw this at us: “Thank goodness we are not under the reign of a capricious God”.

Capricious? None of us had even heard that word. I was the only one who bothered to ask what it was, and Mr. Carter pulled out a Merriam-Webster dictionary from the 70’s to find me the definition. It was defined as “Susceptible to sudden change in mood or behavior”, or something of the sort. He would quiz me on the meaning of this word on a somewhat-daily basis until I had it down.

But the idea that we are not held accountable by a capricious God, and thank goodness for that, goes just a little bit further: We belong to a God that does not micro-manage our lives. This is incredibly freeing. Imagine the strain felt by someone who for whatever reason has it in mind that each and every action they take can make-or-break God’s extraordinary plan for us. This, in some way, is quite selfish: Who am I to ruin God’s plan? Is he not way bigger than that? It is also rather intimidating. To struggle over the most simple choices in our everyday lives is to live bound up away from the possibility of a true relationship with the Lord. However, this is not to say that we shouldn’t pay attention to what it is that God is calling us to do. Does God really care about whether I eat pineapple or a banana for breakfast today? Truly, I don’t know, but for now, I do know that He and I have larger things to tackle.

The Good Creatures

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I met a puppy in the mountains of Monte Verde. There he was, just sitting there on a step, looking at the world around him in a kind of contemplative gaze. He had curiosity in his eyes, but remained still. The puppy’s feet were caked in dirt, yet his thick fur wasn’t matted. It was clear the soft and silent creature had adapted to such an environment; he didn’t belong to anyone here. This pup was a roamer of the rainy green mountain jungle. And, of course, just like all puppies, if not more, he was really, really cute.

Animals are some of the only creatures we are able to love completely and indiscriminately, something we have such a hard time doing with each other. We love these creatures for what they are and what they are not. Perhaps our dominion over and likeness to such creatures is reflective of God’s dominion over us: we watch them make silly decisions, run around in circles, get a mouthful of dirt or poo or roll in the trash or whatever, but at the end of the day we are always given what it is we need and are a part of a ceaseless and forgiving love.

A passionate bishop in the 2nd century, Gregory of Nyssa worked on merging the truths of science and the truths of  faith. One of his main areas of focus was the study of animals and their relation to man. Good ol’ Greg’s argument is essentially that animals are created for the good of humans. It is the ox that tills the land, the sheep wool that keeps us warm, the alligator skin that protects us in battle, the wood of the tree that creates our ships and houses. Humans have a deeply-rooted dependency on animals and nature in order to survive and, in turn, for animals to serve their purpose to God.

Now, there should be something bothering you about this argument here.

If humans are created to be so dependent on animals, then why are they no longer a part of our everyday lives? The only creatures I regularly come into contact with is my dog, the birds, squirrels, and the melancholy farm cows I pass while connecting the dots between Texas and Oklahoma via I-35.

But maybe this is a part of the problem. It is no secret that we are not exactly taking the best care of our precious Earth. I think we all know that regressing back to the pre-industrial revolution is not the solution; technological and mechanical innovation is natural and good for human progress and development. But, I will dare to say that the solution probably lies beyond the easy recycling or the designation of reserves to keep our greedy, grimy hands off of  certain parts of God’s green earth. If animals and the environment were created to serve humans, are we not depriving them of their purpose by only widening the gap between our everyday lives and the great outdoors?

Is this perhaps why we are so willing to trash our oceans, pollute or skies, slaughter thousands of animals a day just to sustain our everyday lives, because we lack the understanding (or acknowledgement) that such a creation is created for us, and, in turn, we are responsible for it? 

What if we made an effort to integrate ourselves within environment again? Is it possible to maintain a symbiotic relationship between ourselves and the natural world around us? How difficult it would be to create such a relationship again.

I loved this puppy in Monte Verde.  I loved this puppy because he was a puppy and it was almost unnatural for me not to. I loved this puppy because he was a living creature. I loved this puppy because he was simple, he was unique, and he was good.

If Gregory was right, then does our abuse of what was created for us reflect how we believe God looks after us? How do you believe that God loves you?

I’m still thinking about this.

Peace.

To The Girl Who Is Already In Love

There are versions of you all around me. Often I find myself behaving as one as well.

To the girl who is already in love,

Have you ever stopped to think about the definition of “Love?” Have you ever considered all that the tiny word encompasses? Yes, you say. Yes, you know about the joy, the laughter, the cuddling, the having somebody there when you need it the most and being there in return,  the 2 AM phone calls, the subtle gracefulness that comes from the idea of you, yes you, are loved. It is a lovely thing, no doubt.

But have you ever considered the suffering the term holds?

Love. I want to be with you.

Love. I would willingly suffer for you to be the best you can be.

Love. I would die for you.

Love. I have already died for you.

Yet we reduce ourselves to gentle whispers to ourselves and our silly girly friends, allow our “boy problems” to escalate beyond our control, and offer each other sloping shoulders time and time again as our hearts break by our own ridiculous standards.

To the girl who is already in love, have you struggled?  Have you argued, hurt each other, brought out the worst you can be, fought the difference between love and lust, struggled with the idea that both you and the other can grow individually, not only together?

No, this is not the case for the girl who is already in love.  A near-perfect relationship with nearly no flaws, there is absolutely nothing about your dearly beloved that you could say you simply didn’t like. Not a foul word has ever been uttered from his perfect lips as countless promises are made to each other and the wishy-washy daydream of deep, unchiseled romance becomes a fairy-tale reality. You love each other too much to be apart. You love each other too much to argue, to stick up for yourself, or to say “no”. Can you believe it? You love each other too much to be willing to utter the word “no”.

Has your lover taken your identity or become a part of it? Could you ever be whole without him, could you ever say that you are making each other better as a result of being together? Do you know the meaning of “passion”?

I was told that the best way to love someone completely is to love them not only entirely in who they are, but to love them  as a part of yourself. If you are willing to accept them as a part of you, and your own high standards, then that, perhaps, is love.

It is a bold thing, learning to love someone with all that you are and all that you’re not.

This is a love that advocates for the blood, sweat, and tears, just as Jesus bled, sweat and cried on the cross as the ultimate display of this love nearly 2,000 years ago. It requires pain, work, and not just blissful emotion, but all emotion, raw emotion. This is a love that requires you both to be human.

To the girl who is already in love,

What do you think when I challenge you? Do you even think about this at all? Do you ever think about Him and how He can love you more than anyone else? Do you comprehend your immense value and worth, your irreducible dignity,  your beauty in the eyes of the one who create you? Does he see that beauty?

Do you need to slow down? Breathe a little?

I’m rooting for you.

Peace.

 

 

 

Mud

Cafe Cristiana

This house is dark. It is nice for sleeping or watching movies but the lazy residue of those who live here fog up the windows and let little to no sunlight in. It is quiet. It is sullen. It is a beast with missing potential, only dripping what is left of the dry remains onto the carpet, staining it in soft, silent argument. The slow death of action and thought cling to the walls like dust waiting to be drawn in.

Why is it that we go to beaches, climb mountains, slip into the cool bonds of a free-flowing river in order to find our greatest sense of peace? Why do we awe in the beauty of the sunset, the promise of the dawn, the feel of the cool, wet mud beneath or feet?

Imagine squishing your feet around in this mud. Do you feel the chunks of clay, the rough outline of a leaf brush against your toes, a worm wiggle under the arch of your foot? Is it a thick, heavy mud, or is it creamy, the product of a recent rain? Is it a dark, almost black or does it gleam a rusty red? Is your mud warm and gentle or is does it have a biting chill? Let it slosh up onto your ankles. Roll up your jeans if you’re wearing them; perhaps allow a hand to slide into the slippery concoction to feel it just a bit more.

In Costa Rica we visited Cafe Cristina, an all-natural coffee farm where everything is cultivated on the land. Every bit of what would be considered “waste” is part of an intricate process in which the elements in the air and a wild combination of worms and beetles break down the extra grass, suffocating weeds, fall brush, and rotting seeds and turned into a compost that carries more nutrients than any man-made fertilizer. This compost in turn is used for the growth of new plants and trees. The natural process is cost-effective, cuts down on the amount toxins emitted into the air, land, and water, and significantly reduces the amount of waste the farm produces. The whole thing is more than a respect for nature, it is a connection to it.

Perhaps this draw is due to the simple fact that we are created from such nature.

Earth was created from the debris of gasses and dust that were left over from the formation of the sun, which in turn collided to form comets and asteroids. Over millions of years these collisions began to form planets. Water began to show up as the earliest volcanoes ejected mass amounts of steam, and, nearly 3 billion years ago, new underwater bacteria used a combination of this water, carbon dioxide, and the sun’s energy to create an energy of its own- photosynthesis. This established oxygen in the oceans and atmosphere, allowing for life to develop into the complex form that it is today.

Life began with dust. Life began when God took this dust and breathed into it the breath of life (Gen. 2:7).  And, just like the mud we loved to slosh around in when we were young or the beautiful mountains that take our breath away or the mysterious jungle floor that is painted with hundreds of thousands of living creatures, we are created from the dust of the ground, and this dust is good. We are Good.

There is a reason we go outside to rest and find peace. It is in this wilderness that we find home, that we find ourselves, and, ultimately, that we find God.