Tuesday, March 14, 2017

It Just Got Real

Last week we had a large scale "wind event" in our state. Some areas were hit worse than others, but winds averaged between 60 and 70 mph for 12 plus hours. Our area was not as bad as some others but there were large scale blackouts, some 850 thousand houses and business, and some damage from fallen trees and power lines.

It was windy in our area but we really didn't have that much of an impact so when I suddenly got an alert text that I'd been activated with the Defense Force by the Governor with our State Emergency Operation Center I was a little surprised. At first my thoughts turned to the worst but then I realized that this was related to the wind storm. So life changed in that instant, it just got real. I had to kick into deployment mode and prepare for immediate response and hit pause on the rest of my life for an indefinite period of time. But while the rest of my life, or at least my part in the rest of my life hit pause, that actual part of my life didn't hit pause. My day job still went on. There were projects that needed to be finished, not just paperwork but projects that dozens of other people depended on for their livelihood and for some their food. It was then that I realized how intertwined my life is with so many others. Their lives can't pause because mine does. I had to employ contingencies already in place to make sure that their lives didn't pause because mine did. My life was going to become intertwined with many others who needed my attention on a more immediate level to help them get to shelter with heat and food and urgent medical attention.

Even though I train, and train, and train, and train for these types of situations you can only do so much to prepare yourself and those around you for certain situations. It's funny how when it finally gets real you know the steps to take but the feeling is quite a bit different than when you train for it. When it gets real, it gets really real. This caused me to think about all the other times in life that we plan for but then all of a sudden.... it just got real! So here's to all those who are looking down the barrel of reality, who suddenly wake up to find it just got real, and to those situations that shake our perceived reality and thrust us into a new dimension.

When it just got real because....
 - you lost your job
 - you or a loved one are diagnosed with a terminal illness
 - your loved one is taken from you in a tragic accident
 - you find out a trusted family member has a secret life
 - you find yourself in the midst of a life crisis
 - your trapped in an abusive relationship
 - you find you've wandered into an addiction and realize you have no control
 - life continues to pummel you with all of the above

In all these situations and especially in your situation which I didn't mention above it's important to remember that you're not alone. I've found that in all of lifes crummy situations the best way out is through. So many times I see people just panic and stop trying, worrying they're going to make it worse. Just because it just got real doesn't mean it's bad. These are the times that are life changing. This is Lent. To walk to Jerusalem knowing what's waiting and hoping you make it through to the other side. That's when it just got real, and when in that instant when you think He's abandoned you you take one more step and your Home. When it gets real it changes things and sometimes we can't go back, all we can do is remember those Moments by Emerson Drive.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Value of a Single Life

I'm back..... crazy insane month. Anyhow....

So last summer I'm laying on the bed at our trailer which is parked on the south side of a huge 22 mile long lake with the scanner on while I'm reading a book when all of a sudden a mayday call comes across the scanner.

"Mayday, Mayday, Coast Guard in -----, my husband is in the water and we can't find him." So I grab the scanner and put it on manual mode and sit up on the bed. The Coast Guard station comes back and calls the vessel calling Mayday. The lady comes back and says "my husband is in the water on the " south end of my lake "and we can't find him. Our boat broke free and we swam for the boat, we made it but he didn't and we can't find him." So immediately I ran to my jump bag, grab my radio, tune to the coast guard emergency frequency that the call came in on and start calling her as I run across the road to a friend who has a boat in the water. She doesn't hear me, I can't get her, We don't know where to find her and the lake is huge. After 20 minutes of trying to reach her and try to figure out where we can go to search her out, we're clueless. Eerily a fog bank rolls in on a strong cold north wind. This was the wind that broke the boat free from it's anchor on a sand bar while the family was swimming. A call comes in from another lake miles away with the same scenario. Unfortunately all I can do is go back to the trailer and listen as things play out. The husband on the lake miles away is found and taken to the hospital. The husband on my lake, not so good. The search transitions to a recovery.

Last weekend I spent the entire weekend with instructors from the National Park Service at the Grand Canyon in Arizona training on Search and Rescue Incident Management. Our group of 30 some law enforcement and first responders was broken into 5 groups. I was appointed Incident Command for our group and we're inserted into an exercise scenario searching for a 10 year old autistic boy who wandered away from his vacationing family while they were attending to an minor emergency. First thing we do is setup a containment area, do a hasty search of the trails and roads and prepare to segment up the area trying to calculate his direction of travel, speed of travel and personality traits that might draw him in one area over another. Consulting a resource book called Lost Person Behavior we narrow down the 10 mile search area to 2 miles and come up with a plan. We arrange to have resources that are available to us in the group activated and tally our options. We've got dog teams, responders, air support, media, the public, etc. Keep in mind this process takes hours as we wade through paperwork required to plan, document, and organize volunteers, resources and manage media and information outlets. In between all this our 10 hour class day comes to a close and we go home to rest up for class the next day. I did not sleep that night. Instead I spent a couple hours going over the data for the lost person behavior, second guessing our priorities of search areas, do we send in dogs in this area, is 2 teams enough to cover the 1/2 mile area, what if the data is wrong in this case and he heads away from the lake and is drawn to the farms and animals in the opposite direction. Why am I sleeping when we should be out looking. By morning I returned to class bright and early with the determination I need to walk away from SAR. This is just an exercise and if this is getting to me how will I handle real life failures. All my SAR's to date have ended early and happy. I've had friends who's results have not been as fortunate. The instructors have found peace in their efforts and the reality that they may not find them all, but they do it for the one that they do find.
My family knows that when I get the call for a SAR, I go... NOW. That lost person is someones father, mother, son, daughter, loved one and that someone could very well be me and that lost loved one could be mine.

My point is this. We've just started Lent. The whole point of Lent is to reflect on the value of a single life... your life. Everything that Jesus endured He endured for you, and he'd do it all again even if there was no one else except you. Maybe we should look at the parable of the lost sheep as a SAR scenario. The passion, death, and Resurrection are the steps He had to take to bring us home to Himself and all our loved ones who've realized their dream and are with Him for eternity. It is unbelievable the efforts, money, resources and manpower that goes into finding one lost person, even to the point of death on a cross. Oh, and about our exercise.... our boy was found in a barn at the very intersection where we placed our containment team. As for me, SAR will continue to be one of my passions, I'm to much like my Friend. I can't just turn away. I'll bear my share of the sorrow with those missions that don't end in rescue if it means I can help one person avoid the question How Am I Supposed to Live Without You by Michael Bolton.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Engaged

You're probably not going to like this but hear me out.

If you've followed this blog for any period of time you know I'm about action. Our actions have to support our words or our words become hollow. Today I overheard a newscast from a Catholic radio station talking about the Bishops speaking out on torture and how it is a crime against the dignity of the person. Absolutely! No denial or argument here! Then it also occurred to me, how are we as Catholics reaching out to the victims and their families who's dignity is obliterated by acts of violence by those who perpetrate these crimes and how do we take steps to negate these actions from happening in the future. If I'm a family member of a victim and I hear this on the news I'm most likely to respond with "you're worried about the dignity of this one person who perpetrated the most denigrating atrocities on my loved one and countless others, what about the dignity of my loved one and these innocent people and all the others that will suffer in the future if we don't cut this off and keep it from happening again!"

This applies to every moral situation we face in society. How do we support with action the principles we speak with our mouth. Words are not enough. About a decade ago I was put in my place by a grandmother who attended our Church with her daughter and granddaughter for a very short time. Her granddaughter was autistic and attracted attention. Eventually someone complained to her about the distraction her granddaughter had become. As the family exited the Church the grandmother approached me in the back of Church and said "You know, the Catholic Church preaches pro-life. They say it is a sin to miss Mass on Sunday. What do you do to help support the children and families, especially when they are in a difficult situation? Instead you complain and criticize them if they don't do it your way!" Those were her last words to me never to be seen again. Not the first family nor the last to be run out of our Churches.

Pope Paul VI on the Day of Peace on January 1, 1972 said "if you want peace work for justice". If we don't advocate (and not just with lip service) for all on both sides of an issue, or perhaps worse yet we only advocate for an issue...where is the justice in that? There is certainly no peace. We come dangerously close to becoming like the Scribes and Pharisees that Jesus warned about in Matthew 23:4....4 - "They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger." Now you can rebut with the fact that our beliefs and principles are Biblically based and ordained by God to which I respond "correct and all the more that we need to quit talking and get engaged in helping each other implement these things, not just sit around and point out everything that's wrong". Last year I went to Flint, a city in our state that has contaminated drinking water, where I worked to get clean drinking water and filters to residents effected by the problem. When I returned I encountered a handful of people in a downtown area carrying picket signs protesting the situation. I have no problem with that but I wanted to approach them and say "ok fine, you don't like the situation... what are you doing to help it... besides standing here letting everyone know you're displeased with it?"

Here's the bottom line question.... you don't like what's going on in the world.... good, we're on the same page. Do you dislike it enough to quit talking and start engaging in something that will help the situation? How can you help the terrorist situation? Can you show support to the victims and families? Can you impact a terrorist to stop? Can we find a better way to eliminate hate and violence?  Can you reach out to an unwed mother or a person at risk to help carry the load? These are difficult issues that take time and sacrifice. At the very least we can pray which is perhaps the very most and the best we can do. If we just continue to judge, condemn, and voice our displeasure with out picking up those who are knocked down, bullied and battered and shoulder the load for those who are burdened the Good News we are called to spread will only fall on those who have become Numb by Linkin Park.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Shhhhhh

So enough about me.... you feel the pull to something deeper in your spiritual life. What does a deeper prayer life look like, how does one go about it? For me it started with Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina means Sacred Reading. It is a method of diving deeper into God's word and listening for a message. Find a nice quiet place you can get cozy in for about 20 minutes, choose a passage, maybe the reading of the day, and give it a try.

My preferred method is the Scholastic method and it goes like this....

Guidelines for Scholastic Lectio Divina

Step One: Read the passage, encouraging and listen with the "ear of their heart." What phrase, sentence or even one word stands out to you?

Step Two: Read the passage again and Reflect on the word of God. Be aware of what touches you, a thought or reflection that is meaningful. Allow a minute or two of silence.

Step Three: Read the passage again and Respond spontaneously to the word of God. Be aware of any prayer that rises up within that expresses the experience. Allow a minute or two of silence.

Step Four: Read the passage a final time and Rest in the word, reflect or pray and allow God to speak in the silence. Allow three or four minutes of silence.

To Extend the Practice: After the resting, take the phrase, sentence, or word into your daily activity and listen to it, reflect on it, pray over it, and rest in it as time allows during the day. Allow it to become part of you.

This is a slightly adjusted direct quote from the a brochure offered by Contemplative Outreach. There is a Monastic method as well that you can check out. Sooooo, no cute music videos today, just silence and encouragement your to sit, shut and listen.

You can download the brochure here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Walk on Water

Just a gentle reminder, God is not a tame lion, good but not safe.... hence the name of this blog. Now with that as a backdrop here we go.

Somehow, someway there has been a change, a growing weight on my heart. It moves me like I've only been moved once before in my life and that resulted in a life changing physical move of 300 miles. It continues to grow and it is to seek out the lost. Search and Rescue has become one of my passions and I train, equip myself, and hone my skills to grab a backpack and compass and set out in search. But there's another side to this coin that I've been engaged in for many years, to seek out those who are lost in life. I've talked about this in previous posts such as in my entry titled Incarnation. My heart always turns to the families of those who are lost, the agony of not knowing, the questions, the guilt, and it never goes away. My family knows from experienced that when I get a SAR call out not matter the day, the time or whatever is going on, it all stops and I go. 

Through the discernment and prayer I mentioned in the previous two posts the pull on me continues to grow and as I work to discern what this call might be it is becoming clear that the implications are huge. There's an ocean between where I am and the direction the sound of the call is coming from. We live in times when it is an everyday occurrence that someone comes up missing, human trafficking lurks everywhere, runaways are at extreme risk and often times get in over their head with no escape, turmoil in families cause rifts that drive each other further and further away breaking all contact.

There are so many ways we get separated from each other, especially loved ones. Finding reconciliation and rescue seems to slip away with the tide. I'd like to encourage you to think about those in your life who are separated, lost or missing. What can you do to help? What is God calling you to do? For me it seems there's an ocean between where I am and where I'm called to be and Jesus crossed that ocean one step at a time. As disciples we're called to have faith instead of doubt and follow in His footsteps. It is a sacrifice of self for those who are separated and that sacrifice is transformed into a Hymn for the Missing by Red. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Voices

re·treat

rəˈtrēt/
verb
verb: retreat; 3rd person present: retreats; past tense: retreated; past participle: retreated; gerund or present participle: retreating
1.    1.
(of an army) withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after a defeat.

o    move back or withdraw.

o    withdraw to a quiet or secluded place.

noun
noun: retreat; plural noun: retreats
1.    1.
an act of moving back or withdrawing.
"a speedy retreat"

2.    2.
a signal for a military force to withdraw.
"the bugle sounded a retreat"
o     
3.    3.
a quiet or secluded place in which one can rest and relax.

o    a period of seclusion for the purposes of prayer and meditation.
o     
I have two questions for you....

      1. What is the next step God wants you to take in your life?
       
      2. What did your facebook friends most commonly post about over the holidays?

My guess is that after the glaze disappeared from your eyes after reading the first question you went on to think about the family photos and pictures of gifts and commentaries on the holidays from all your facebook friends.

We are so inundated with voices from every direction often times we lose our own voice and become who those voices tell us we are. The world would brainwash us into becoming who they want if we let that happen. The sorry fact is that we know more about everyone else (or at least what they want us to know) then we know about ourselves. There's only one path to get in touch with who you are as a child of God. Go to a quiet room with no outside distractions, sit down, shut up and listen. Take time to process the events of your life. Allow God to speak to those events and listen for stirrings of thoughts and emotions that move you to a healthier place. Do this every day and take a little extended time once a week. You'll find that those messages that others are pushing at you, those labels on the sticky notes they like to stick to forehead all just fall away and you come to know who you really are and what God really wants for your life.

Sometimes we need to retreat, get away from those enemies to a quiet, secluded place so we can live to fight another day. Sometimes we need to Runaway by Linkin Park.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

.... Another Day!

Sooooo, here we are all gathered together at the beginning of a brand new year. You're probably wondering why I called you all here today.... well I didn't but I was summoned the same as you.

Now that the Holidays are drifting slowly away in the rear view mirror I'd encourage you to take some time to process and take it all in. My hope is that it was a blessed season and that you were able to spend some quality time with all people God has blessed your life with.

The funny thing about New Years is that we start the year out with great intentions. I think the best New Years resolution I had was the one that I knew I would fail at, that's why I picked it. Since then I've gotten more realistic about my resolutions and I know this has become cliche for many but for Christians you better not be one who falls into that category. After all the Christian life is about transformation, making changes in your life for the better and if you don't have the resolution to commit to change for the better, to move you closer to Christ than perhaps you might want to check into a cause you can get involved with or some other nice thing to do with your life that doesn't ask for long-term, deep change.

I have a list of things to work on for the new year. One that's not on the list but is a carry over from Advent is to slow down, lose the clutter in my life and focus on the mission. If you're a good Christian, involved in some good efforts to make a difference in the world then there's a good chance you're like me in that you get asked to do a lot, seemingly everything. If that hasn't happened yet just wait for it. Many aren't up to the challenge so they will find someone who is and you'll be the poster child to get things done.

This is where discernment comes in. Discernment can be mind boggling and it takes a lot of prayer and listening. I have the obvious pitfalls in my life and some I still fall into. That's not discernment. I know I'm not supposed to eat the fruit. I'm talking about deep discernment. When it comes to the point where opportunities are dropped in your lap on a daily basis to address some cause or injustice or do something good. That's when discernment kicks in. It's all good, but it's not all good for me. It's not all part of my METL (mission essential task list... yes, military acronym). Doing good is the same as doing bad in that just because I can doesn't mean I should. At some point you can get so bogged down with activities that you lose your effectiveness at doing what is your God given mission, the thing(s) you're gifted for. You'll get labels and perceived authority that are false, how you respond to those perceptions is up to you. Just because I will stand firm in my convictions and what I know is right doesn't mean that I need to pickup the banner for all those who can not stand their ground. I will when they can't but side by side with them not for them. I've learned to choose my battles wisely, mostly through not choosing my battles wisely. The most effective way to survive a confrontation is to remove yourself from it. Sometimes you have to leave the battle to win the war. My motto is "live to fight another day". The discernment comes in knowing if this is your battle or not.

As we begin this new year I'd encourage you to pray and listen about the plans and direction God has for your life. As you zero in on what it is God is calling you to right here, right now (and it will change as needed, it may not be a permanent calling) but as you discern what your METL is you will find the wisdom and courage to walk away from the battles that are not yours and use those graces to accomplish His will. Oh and btw, make sure it is HIS will and not yours, we're not on an ego building mission and yes I am talking to YOU. You'll find that when you start living and moving in His will for your life you'll be Fireproof by Pillar.