In spite of being a meticulous planner, I found myself becoming more nimble and spontaneous with each outing, typically going where I felt the Holy Spirit lead. That came to encompass all sorts of spectacular terrain from lush river beds in the lower elevations, to higher desert elevations in full summer bloom, to some scenic peaks of all shapes and sizes including Tom's Thumb, Lookout Mountain, Bell Pass, Brown's Summit and the like.
More importantly, I discovered that some lingering, repetitive patterns of bad thinking were gradually giving way to a more fruitful stillness and prayer.
Regarding prayer –– because that's really what I'm talking about here –– let's just say that my little 'words' don't even begin to compare to the great prayers of Saints. It's just simple dialog, really. I often get started with some of the more familiar Catholic prayers and frequently have to lean on them to get myself back on track. I've never been particularly good at formal prayers. I'm human, so sometimes my thoughts wander off course, but I'm getting more patient with myself.
I also find that the great outdoors easily inspire praise for Our Creator. How could it not?
I wrapped up my summer desert prayer odyssey with the recent Verde River trek. With nearly 300 total miles logged, I spent a little time reflecting on the overall experience and giving thanks for a number of seemingly small things that are big to me nonetheless.
(1) Although it was summer in Arizona, the heat never seemed to be an issue for me. Sure, it gets pretty hot here and the exertion adds to the heat, but I can't honestly say that it ever bothered me.
(2) I don't remember being bothered by the bugs again either, even when I was near a body of water.
(3) All the animals seemed friendlier, or at the very least, they all seemed more peaceful. It's probably due to the ongoing positive growth in my outlook, as the animals were no doubt doing what they always do, but it almost seems like they let me get really close with the camera (even hamming it up on some occasions).
(4) I rarely felt alone. Even though I can count the people I encountered on one hand, learning once again how to be really still ensured that I never felt alone. God is always there. That was sufficient, but remembering all the other people I pray for, the many people who pray for me, and the bountiful critters all around certainly helped as well.
(5) I deepened my trust in Jesus. (O.K., that's a really big one.)
I'm also really thankful that I can do something that I feel called to do. Some people might scoff at that, but that's fine.
I do my best at it, for whatever it's worth. I do it for my family and loved ones. I do it for folks with me in spirit. I do it for folks who will never get the chance. I do it for Our Father to praise His mighty works. He of course knows how awesome it all is, I think He just delights in us all the more when we're delighted.
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