Voices in the wilderness

Editors Note:  This is part of a series I wrote three years ago.  Enjoy.

Friday after Ash Wednesday / February 27, 2009
Lake Charles, Louisiana in a bayou

Dear friends,

Lent always begins by inviting us to go into our own wilderness experience with Jesus.  Mine began this morning (Friday.)

I slept well but almost crashed my 65-year-old bones onto the floor, not used to a single bed.  I spent time with my Lord as usual this morning.  The harp sound on my iphone at 3:33 sounded like it was echoing in a cathedral; I was very hungry about 5 AM, had some cheese and eggs, resonated deeply with an awesome reflection by St. John Chrysostom on prayer, and rested deeply on the Word as I am accustomed.

(The ancient process of Lectio Divina has one savor  the sacred text, phrase by phrase, listen to whatever the Spirit wants to say to you in particular and then rest in the word; literally, to fall asleep and let God do his work in you below the level of your consciousness.  Indeed, that is how one changes.  We surrender to God’s grace and let him do the work of transformation and purification on a very deep level at the core of our being.  Thus, if we let go and surrender, if we listen in the silence, the process of transformation becomes easy for us.

I was awakened by the sound of birds greeting the early morning, though the sun had decided not to appear behind the misty clouds that are still now streaming across the sky.  My ears were very attuned to the bird-song, actually a little quartet of four distinct species.  I wish I would listen to nature’s sounds more often!

With an 8 oz foam cup of too-strong coffee, I headed down into the cypress swamp.  My mood became quite depressed at the site of decay, of long-dead stumps.  (I don’t find this bayou very inspiring; there’s death and decay everywhere, but also I can see tiny buds on  the cypress when I looked closely.  I became aware of the stillness.  And thought of what Jesus must have experienced in that other kind of wilderness, the desert. This morning I am attentive to every sound, the sounds of silence, the voices of the wilderness:

The bees busy on one of the few flowering plants /The squeaky hinge on the gate that invites one to be open to a watery-wilderness experience / The stirring of the trees in the wind / hounds barking a mile away / a train whistle in the distance / my breath as it enters and exits my nostrils/ my pulse against my neck/ the hoot of an owl in the wood next to the bayou / the crack of a twig as I walk / the rustle of leaves underfoot along the bank of the Calisceau.

And when I got back to the retreat center, a quadrangle of yellow brick corridors around a stark empty courtyard with one tulip tree already budding in one corner, there are the voices of the bass and treble wind chimes and the Angelus bell!  Oh, how long it’s been since I’ve said the Angelus!  Every town and village in the Middle Ages rang out the Angelus bells morning, noon and night.  That was a part of Catholic life long forgotten now.

The message of the wilderness for us is exactly that:  to tune us into the sounds, the voices in our lives.  Each of us are bombarded with so many sounds, conflicting /confusing / crashing sounds that make it difficult for us to hear the soft voices that bear the messages from afar or the cries of a hurting inner-child within.

Jesus went into the desert to sort out those voices. The harsh voices of the world that tempted him to not even realize that there was a Soft Voice behind and beneath them that would be the Voice he chose to listen to and respond all his short life.

So, we too, have to learn how to silence the Harsh Voices that still inhabit our soul that prompt us to hate ourselves, demean ourselves, do destructive things so that we can hear the Soft Voices, the gentle voices that affirm and nourish us.

In the desert Jesus discovered that there was one still Soft Voice that he loved to hear, the Voice that he learned to call Abba / Father.  Jesus is calling his God:  Daddy!

Now that’s the message of the desert, the wilderness experience:  to learn how to listen deeply.  But that’ a major problem for us.  Most of us are so uncomfortable with silence that we get very nervous and anxious when we’re by ourselves.  Some people have to have some “white noise” the hum of a fan or refrigerator in order to sleep.   There is very little silence in our world today.  And that means God is left out of our lives because silence is the language God speaks.

And so bring some silence into your Lent each day.  If you can’t find any place more creative – for you guys, the garage,  close the bathroom door, put the lid down on the john, turn the water to submerge the blast of the TV in the den.  Try to do this every day until Easter.  You might at first be fearful of the voices you hear, the voices that emerge from within, the voice of your conscience.  But realize Jesus did exactly the same thing in the wilderness.

Lenten is about listening.  Open the ears of your mind and heart.  Don’t be afraid.    You will enter the wilderness – the wild-ness – within you.  But you will also find yourself and your inner strength, the real you and the Other who loves you and has been there all the time though you knew it not.

I’ll write more whenever Father Don allows me to.  Right now, I’m going to go back to the swamp, which is a wilderness experience I don’t like; it’s quite depressing, let alone inspiring. And those damned mosquitoes! I much preferred the wilderness of the desert experience I had exactly a year ago in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico.

The Jesus I know and love is the One who had the courage to silence the conflicting harsh voices of the world and his own ego to hear and love and respond to the voice of his heavenly Father.  He is beckoning me to do that once again here on this retreat.

I will write again soon.  I am eager to share more about the Jesus I know and love but Don says now is not the time!

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 8 – Jesus’ wild and wooly advance man

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Second Sunday of Advent

He probably looked like someone from the cast of the old musical Hair or a hippie.

He lived in the wild in the desert of Judea.

He wore clothing made of camel’s hair, which I’m sure was – um – uncomfortable in the desert’s heat.  (He was probably pretty stinky.)

His scrumptious diet was locusts and wild honey ~yuck!

His message: “Repent,  for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

(Yeah, I know.  You’ve heard that  a zillion times before by street corner prophets.)

In our – um – respectable Sunday assemblies, he would probably be looked upon with scorn;  he was certainly not the kind of guy we would expect to be the Advance Man for the Son of God.  But that’s what he was.  (And we better pay attention to his message – which we’ll do this week – because it is critical for our own times.)

He was Jesus’ cousin, born only a few months before the Lord.  The pair may have played together as kids.  And John, must have gotten to know Jesus well enough to  perceive what his role would be in history.

As a result, he preached with exuberance and passion and sometimes with fury.  He raged at many of the Pharisees and Sadducees:  “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (And I’m sure they seethed and you can be sure they were out to get him.

He spoke fearlessly, unafraid of what the hypocritical religious leaders might do to him. Eventually Herod had him imprisoned and Herodias, his wife, demanded his head on a platter.

John was a prophet . . .

A voice crying out in the wilderness

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.

In today’s readings we find, Mark beginning his Gospel with the story of of John the Baptist.  He points the way to Jesus when he says: 

        One mightier than I is coming after me.  […]

        I have baptized you with water;

        he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit  (Mark 1:7-8).

The Christmas message is that Love has entered the world.

As we enter this second week of Advent, let’s ask ourselves:

How can I prepare the way for the Lord  (or Love, if you do not  share our  Christian faith,)

at home,

at the office,

in your neighborhood,

in our country,

in our politics,

in our world — this week?

God’s message to us in the Christmas story is Love.

That’s why he was born, entering our world as a vulnerable baby.

And that’s why he died – vulnerable / bound / nailed –

because the Father wanted us to have evidence that he loved us.

And in turn, his message is . . .

Love one another as I have loved you.

Right now, there’s a lot of hatred going around.

There are hate groups all over our country.  Over 900 documented armed hate groups.

Our country could be in flames.  All it might take is a spark to set it off.

There’s hatred toward Muslims.  I have Muslim friends.  They are devout and wonderful people.

There’s hatred toward gay people.  I have gay friends.  And they’re as decent and often as devout as those who sit in the front pews of our churches.

Some of our kids suffer from bullying ~ even to the point of committing suicide.

Yes, indeed! We have lots of need to repent.

How ’bout you, dear reader?

Is there hatred or love in your heart?

If we hate even one person, we cause hate to have its sway anywhere.

And the opposite is true as well — if we love one person sacrificially, love enters the world in a powerful way.

Let’s do it this week — this second week of Advent,

And then we will truly have a beautiful / meaningful /joyful / authentic Christmas celebration.

We don’t need all the frenzied shopping or frivolous, expensive gift-giving.

Celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah by being kinder, gentler, cheerier.

Hold the door open for the folks behind you when you enter a store.  Smile!

Think about and pray about reconciling with a friend you’re at odds with.  Smooth out hurt feelings.  Give somebody – anybody – the gift of your presence rather than presents.

Recently, as I was taking my groceries to the car I smiled at an older woman who was poorly dressed and who seemed troubled.  Her name was Sylvia, an immigrant from one of the islands.  She called after me and I took the time to listen to her, thereby allowing her to be recognized as a person, if just for a moment.  I stopped to pray with her a moment that God would send her an angel to help with a serious problem.  She said to me: “You are my angel!”  Perhaps I was.  Perhaps I was the instrument of grace to turn her life around.  You never know.

Your children don’t need lots of stuff ~ especially stuff that makes a lot of noise!   (We’ll get to the need for silence in our lives in a few days.)

And now, here’s my personal prayer on this Second Sunday of Advent:

Jesus,

You have allowed me, your priest/servant the grace

to prepare the way for You in the lives on many people  over forty years–

children / octogenarians / homeless / guys in jail / those dying /

grieving / celebrating / becoming Catholic / non-believers /

gay / parishioners / mentally ill / neighbors /  friends / strangers.

What an honor, what a privilege!

Thank you, Lord for that awesome grace!

And please forgive me and heal the hurt of anyone whom I have turned away from You by my failures and sins.

I remember and pray for so many of them today.

I am eager to continue doing so in my writing.

Guide my pen (my cursor), Lord.

And what a joy it would be if those whose lives I have touched through my written word or in person realize they, too, can prepare the way for you in our troubled world.

Come, Lord Jesus!  

You might also might like to look over the Mass readings for today. Click here.   (Hint: To get back to this page (if your not tech Savvy) at the very top left or your computer you’ll see the word “back”; above it is an (<). Click on it and voila! it will bring you right back to this page and . . .

Now, listen and watch Prepare the way of the Lord from Godspell. (Get a chuckle out of Jesus 1973 ‘Fro.’) Be sure to enter full screen.

Your light will come dear people of God;

the Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty.

You will see his glory within YOU!

The Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty.

                  ~ the Advent Liturgy.

This week we’ll reflect on what Jesus’ wild and wooly advance man has to say to us and our times.  You might want to look up the following scripture references over the next week if you have time: (Matthew 3:1-17 / 14:1-12 // Mark 1:1-8. // Luke 1: 39-45 / 1:57 – 80 // 3:1-20 / 7:18-35 // John 1:15-34 / 3:22-30

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 8 – Jesus’ wild and wooly advance man

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Second Sunday of Advent

He probably looked like someone from the cast of the old musical Hair or a hippie.

He lived in the wild in the desert of Judea.

He wore clothing made of camel’s hair, which I’m sure was – um – uncomfortable in the desert’s heat.  (He was probably pretty stinky.)

His scrumptious diet locusts and wild honey ~yuck!

His message was: “Repent,  for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

(Yeah, I know.  You’ve heard that  a zillion times before by street corner prophets.)

In our – um – respectable Sunday assemblies, he would probably be looked upon with scorn;  he was certainly not the kind of guy we would expect to be the Advance Man for the Son of God.  But that’s what he was.  (And we better pay attention to his message – which we’ll do this week – because it is critical for our own times.)

He was Jesus’ cousin, born only a few months before the Lord.  The pair may have played together as kids.  And John, must have gotten to know Jesus well enough to  perceive what his role would be in history.  As a result, he preached with exuberance and passion and sometimes with fury.  He raged at many of the Pharisees and Sadducees:  “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (And I’m sure they seethed and you can be sure they were out to get him.

He spoke fearlessly, unafraid of what the hypocritical religious leaders might do to him. Eventually Herod had him imprisoned and Herodias demanded his head on a platter.

John was a prophet . . .

A voice crying out in the wilderness

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.

The Christmas message is that Love has entered the world.

As we enter this second week of Advent, let’s ask ourselves:

How can I prepare the way for the Lord  (or Love)

at home,

at the office,

in my neighborhood,

in our country,

in our politics,

in our world — this week?

God’s message to us in the Christmas story is Love.

That’s why he was born, entering our world as a vulnerable baby.

And that’s why he died – vulnerable / bound / nailed –

because the Father wanted us to have evidence that he loved us.

And in turn, his message is . . .

Love one another as I have loved you.

Right now, there’s a lot of hatred going around.

There are hate groups all over our country.  Over 900 documented armed hate groups.

Our country could be in flames.  All it might take is a spark to set it off.

People I know are not very happy that a Black man is president.

And then there’s hatred toward Muslims.  I have Muslim friends.  They are devout and wonderful people.

There’s hatred toward gay people.  I have gay friends.  And they’re as decent and often as devout as those who sit in the front pews of our churches.

Yes, indeed! We have lots of need to repent.

How ’bout you, dear reader?

Is there hatred or love in your heart?

If we hate even one person, we cause hate to have its sway anywhere.

And the opposite is true as well — if we love one person sacrificially, love enters the world in a powerful way.

Do you spread hate and incivility?

Or love and “practice random acts of kindness?

AA has us take “a Personal Inventory of ourselves.”

Let’s stop blaming others for what’s wrong and realize our own responsibility.

Let’s do it this week — this second week of Advent,

And then we will truly have a beautiful / meaningful /joyful / authentic Christmas celebration.

We don’t need all the frenzied shopping or frivolous, expensive gift-giving.

Celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah by being kinder, more gentle and cheerful.

(And HAPPY HANUKAH to our Jewish friends – Day 5 today.)

Hold doors open for the folks behind you upon entering a store.

Think about and pray about reconciling with a friend you’re at odds with.  Smooth out hurt feelings.  Give somebody – anybody – the gift of your presence rather than presents.

Recently, as I was taking my groceries to the car I smiled at an older woman who was poorly dressed and who seemed troubled.  Her name was Sylvia, an immigrant from one of the islands.  She called after me and I took the time to listen to her, thereby allowing her to be recognized as a person, if just for a moment.  I stopped to pray with her a moment that God would send her an angel to help with a serious problem.  She said to me: “You are my angel!”  Perhaps I was.  Perhaps I was the instrument of grace to turn her life around.  You never know.

Your children don’t need lots of stuff ~ especially stuff that makes a lot of noise!   (We’ll get to the need for silence in our lives in a few days.)

And now, here’s my personal prayer on this Second Sunday of Advent:

Jesus,

You have allowed me, your priest/servant the grace

to prepare the way for You in the lives on many people  over forty years–

children / octogenarians / homeless / guys in jail / those dying /

grieving / celebrating / becoming Catholic / non-believers /

gay / parishioners / mentally ill / neighbors /  friends / strangers.

What an honor, what a privilege!

Thank you, Lord for that awesome grace!

And please forgive me and heal the hurt of anyone whom I have turned away from You by my failures and sins.

I remember and pray for so many of them today.

I am eager to continue doing so in my writing.

Guide my pen (my cursor), Lord.

And what a joy it would be if those whose lives I have touched through my written word or in person realize they, too, can prepare the way for you in our troubled world.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Now, listen and watch Prepare the way of the Lord from Godspell. (Get a chuckle out of Jesus 1973 ‘Fro.’) Be sure to enter full screen.

You might also want to look at  today’s Mass readings.

Your light will come dear people of God;

the Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty.

You will see his glory within YOU!

The Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty.

~ the Advent Liturgy.

This week we’ll reflect on what Jesus’ wild and wooly advance man has to say to us and our times.  You might want to look up the following scripture references over the next week if you have time: (Matthew 3:1-17 / 14:1-12 // Mark 1:1-8. // Luke 1: 39-45 / 1:57 – 80 // 3:1-20 / 7:18-35 // John 1:15-34 / 3:22-30

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Voices in the wilderness

Friday after Ash Wednesday / February 27, 2009
Lake Charles, Louisiana in a bayou

Dear friends,

(This post was written Friday but is not being published until just now, Monday morning, March 2nd.  Lent always begins by inviting us to go into our own wilderness experience with Jesus.  Mine began this morning (meaning – Friday.)

I slept well but almost crashed my 65-year-old bones onto the floor, not used to a single bed.  I spent time with my Lord as usual this morning.  This morning the harp sound on my iphone at 3:33 sounded like it was echoing in a cathedral; I was very hungry about 5 AM, had some cheese and eggs, resonated deeply with an awesome reflection by St. John Chrysostom on prayer, and rested deeply on the Word as I am accustom.  (The ancient process of Lection Divina has one savor  the sacred text, phrase by phrase, listen to whatever the Spirit wants to say to you in particular and then rest in the word; literally, to fall asleep and let God do his work in you below the level of your consciousness.  Indeed, that is how one changes.  We surrender to God’s grace and let him do the work of transformation and purification on a very deep level at the core of our being.  Thus, if we let go and surrender, if we listen in the silence, the process of transformation becomes easy for us.

I was awakened by the sound of birds greeting the early morning, though the sun had decided not to appear behind the misty clouds that are still now streaming across the sky.  My ears were very attuned to the bird-song, actually a little quartet of four distinct species.  I wish I would listen to nature’s sounds more often!

With an 8 oz foam too strong coffee, I headed down into the cypress swamp.  My mood became quite depressed at the site of decay, of long-dead stumps.  (I don’t find this bayou very inspiring; there’s death and decay everywhere, but also I can see tiny buds on  the cypress when I looked closely.  I became aware of the stillness.  And thought of what Jesus must have experienced in that other kind of wilderness, the desert. This morning I am attentive to every sound, the sounds of silence, the voices of the wilderness:

The bees busy on one of the few flowering plants /The squeaky hinge on the gate that invites one to be open to a watery-wilderness experience /The stirring of the trees in the wind / hounds barking a mile away / a train whistle in the distance /my breath as it entered and exited my nostrils/ my pulse against my neck/ the hoot of an owl in the wood next to the bayou/the crack of a twig as I walk / the rustle of leaves underfoot along the bank of the Calisceau.  And when I got back to the retreat center, a quadrangle of yellow brick corridors around a stark empty courtyard with one tulip tree already budding in one corner, there is are the voices of the bass and treble wind chimes and the Angelus bell!  Oh, how long it’s been since I’ve said the Angelus!  Every town and village in the Middle Ages rang out the Angelus bells morning, noon and night.  That was a part of Catholic life long forgotten now.

The message of the wilderness for us is exactly that:  to tune us into the sounds, the voices in our lives.  Each of us are bombarded with so many sounds, conflicting /confusing / crashing sounds that make it difficult for us to hear the soft voices that bear the messages from afar or the cries of a hurting inner-child within.

Jesus went into the desert to sort out those voices. The harsh voices of the world that tempted him to not even realize that there was a Soft Voice behind and beneath them that would be the Voice he chose to listen to and respond all his short life.

So, we too, have learn how to silence the Harsh Voices that still inhabit our soul that prompt us to hate ourselves, demean ourselves, do destructive things so that we can hear the Soft Voices, the gentle voices that affirm and nourish us.

In the desert Jesus discovered that there was one still Soft Voice that he loved to hear, the Voice that he learned to call Abba / Father.  Jesus is calling his God:  Daddy!

Now that’s the message of the desert, the wilderness experience:  to learn how to listen deeply.  But that’ a major problem for us.  Most of us are so uncomfortable with silence that we get very nervous and anxious when we’re by ourselves.  Some people have to have some “white noise” the hum of a fan or refrigerator in order to sleep.   There is very little silence in our world today.  And that means God is left out of our lives because silence is the language God speaks.

And so bring some silence into your Lent each day.  If you can’t find any place more creative – for you guys, the garage,  close the bathroom door, put the lid down on the john, turn the water to submerge the blast of the TV in the den.  Try to do this every day until Easter.  You might at first be fearful of the voices you hear, the voices that emerge from within, the voice of your conscience.  But realize Jesus did exactly the same thing in the wilderness.

Lenten is about listening.  Open the ears of your mind and heart.  Don’t be afraid.    You will enter the wilderness – the wild-ness – within you.  But you will also find yourself and your inner strength, the real you and the Other who loves you and has been there all the time though you knew it not.

I’ll write more whenever Father Don allows me to.  Right now, I’m going to go back to the swamp, which is a wilderness experience I don’t like; it’s quite depressing, let alone inspiring. And those damned mosquitoes! I much preferred the wilderness of the desert experience I had exactly a year ago in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico.

The Jesus I know and love is the One who had the courage to silence the conflicting harsh voices of the world and his own ego to hear and love and respond to the voice of his heavenly Father.  He is beckoning me to do that once again here on this retreat.

I will write again soon.  I am eager to share more about the Jesus I know and love but Don says now is not the time!

Monday morning, March 2, 2009 / The First Week of Lent

With love,

Bob Traupman

priest/writer