Blog Entry - 12.12.14

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Pictured above: (1) Prayer intentions at Sweetwater Haven. (2) The setting sun lights up the desert. (3) Our tablet marker rests on an eagle's perch in the small cave above the cairns. (4) Detail of the stone marker. (5) The setting sun on the journey home.

The Stones Begin to Speak
Part III - Tongues of Fire

Yahweh is an everlasting God, he created the boundaries of the earth. He does not grow tired or weary, his understanding is beyond fathoming. He gives strength to the wearied, he strengthens the powerless. Young men may grow tired and weary, youths may stumble, but those who hope in Yahweh renew their strength. They run and do not grow weary, walk and never tire.
-- Isaiah 40:28-31

During the course of erecting the Cross of Cairns I was called away to the desert, so to speak.

My professional life that filled my time with the din and demands of large companies was suddenly altered to working for myself in the relative solitude of a home office. As shocking a change as it was, the flexibility enabled me to spend quite a bit of time outdoors running around the neighborhood and hiking in the desert when I wanted for the most part.

I got in the habit of carrying little stones on my runs, symbols of the particular prayer intention I had each day which usually consisted of someone in my territory of souls. As rough as my prayers were and as difficult as it was to stay focused throughout, I managed to keep this up for many years with the hope that God would hear and answer me.

The prayer runs and cairn building with larger stones continued for about seven years, until I was once again called to change direction with a dramatic shift back into a large company culture. This time around I was tasked with leading the charge, but the seven years in the 'desert' had prepared me to approach things from a completely different perspective from my previous experiences.

Where the stakeholders saw only a challenging time for their company's direction and profits, I saw a group of souls in desperate need of hope for something infinitely larger and lasting. Overall, it's been quite the battle with little respite and only the most tenuous inklings of future victories. Even so, I hope and trust in the Lord.

I had previously mentioned that someone would occasionally knock the cairns down which was obviously frustrating, but once I allowed it to really get the better of me.

After reconstructing them I went so far as to knock down the little trail markers all the way down the hill, determined to obscure the path for any would-be vandals that wandered that way.

Later, I repented of the folly, when my nine year old once again marked the trail with little cairns of her own, without the slightest prompting from dad.

I resolved to exercise the utmost patience from that point on, whether I had to rebuild those cairns seven times seventy times. To this day, I've never had to repair them once. In fact, I can clearly see where others have effected some repairs of their own, even adding to the structural integrity and overall height with their own little additions.

Having encountered the tortoise on those three occasions, one would think that I should never have gotten angry at all to that point of selfishness and pride. As I also mentioned previously, I'm all too human though.



Bit by bit, I started asking people from work if they wanted to take a nice hike with me up into Hidden Canyon. Again, it's a bit like pulling teeth, but I've managed to get some all the way up to the cairns.

On those occasions I've done everything possible to avoid the topic of work. Why spoil the great outdoors with shop talk, unless I see some clear opportunity to guide the topic into something really important.

For the most part, hiking lends itself to plenty of quiet and contemplation, so avoiding the wrong topics isn't that difficult.

I also find that when it comes to matters of faith, a great deal of talk isn't that necessary either when you're surrounded by so many symbols in nature of God's presence.

With every little detail proclaiming, "God exists," what could my words possibly add?

Well, it turns out that sometimes words are necessary, on which occasion I immediately implore help from the Holy Spirit before the first word crosses my lips. Sometimes that word lingers there a long time before release, while at other times it just seems to burst forth. Sure, sometimes I also have to backtrack a little before eventually getting it right.

On a recent trip with one of my sons and my trusty trail dog, Lily, we were resting peacefully and having a chat at the cairns. He was wondering if anyone else had ever found the spot, when I heard some faint voices a bit down the arroyo, apparently heading our way. "Someone will be here shortly," I said.

A short time later, two girls about his age came around the bend and we exchanged greetings.

Pointing at the cairns, I asked the girls, "What do you make of those?" One of the girls wasn't quite sure and the other thought they were some kind of Indian ruin. My son looked at me waiting to see how I would respond.

"Actually, he and his sister helped build these," I said while pointing at my son. "Maybe if you climb up to the top of that outcropping, you might get a little more perspective. There's a bit of a mystery here, but I'm sure you'll figure it out." And with that, I added a couple of stones to St. Patrick's cairn and we headed back down the trail for home.

My daughter and I were recently sitting quietly up at the cairns on a gloriously sunny day. I was admiring a tall butte that rose majestically in the distance, dwarfing St. Benedict's cairn in the foreground. The butte was lit up like a vibrant orange torch, while the little cairn was sitting in the shadows. That certainly put it into perspective for me.

I smiled at the humbling lesson, then turned to watch my daughter who was humming a gentle little tune while she erected a mini cairn from a small pile of flat stones she had carefully chosen.

She turned to me when finished, beaming with a look of great accomplishment and delight.

"Awesome," I said.

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