Monday, June 27, 2011


Fr. Dale Matson
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, NASB).

I quit smoking in 1983 and gained twenty pounds within the next couple of months. Exercise can be an effective behavioral substitute for smoking and I began walking. My first mile took eighteen and a half minutes and I thought I was going to have a heart attack at the end. I began walking daily and decided on the goal of running for a mile. After this, it was a 5K then a 10K run. Making progress in one area of life can keep one optimistic even when other areas are less than satisfactory. As a side effect, my weight diminished. Eventually I ran (and walked) my first marathon in six hours twenty minutes at age 48. I finished last behind a lady who had to give up her moniker “Last place Grace”. I used a marathon training plan by Jeff Galloway.

Since that time I have run over one hundred marathons and ultra-marathons (for me, everything worth doing is worth overdoing). Because of occasional overuse injuries, I later learned to mix running with swimming and biking and have remained relatively injury free since adopting this method of training. I must also say that I am physically unremarkable and did not participate in school sports. I personally believe that completing a marathon as a runner or a “double century” as a cyclist is a breakthrough experience that can forever positively impact a person’s life.

Let me now discuss what can happen along the way. Either of these or similar goals requires dedication and discipline from the individual. These are goals arrived at only incrementally and over time, often in the company of individuals with which you will forge lifelong friendships. These are goals which require patience, persistence and focus. These are goals that require priority setting and boundary setting. Perhaps the most important thing these goals require is self-discipline or self-regulation. Along the way one gains a sense of self efficacy and respect for one’s own body. Food is seen as fuel not something to appease a mood. Sweat comes from places a shower never reaches and physical fatigue helps one sleep better.

If you find that your schedule is overwhelming and that you can’t seem to get closure on things, maybe it is a self-regulation issue and not the demands of your work. Goal setting and attainment require the skills one must acquire to complete a marathon. Time management and task accountability are problems I continue to see with professionals who even have masters and doctoral level preparation.  If you are a Christian and your life is still a chaotic mess, then maybe a marathon is in order. Run two and call me in the morning.

Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air.” (1st Corinthians 9:26, NASB).       

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Fr. Dale Matson
“Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised,
And His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of Your majesty
And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts,
And I will tell of Your greatness.
They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness
And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.”
(Psalm 145: 3-7)

Mountains are frequently associated with God in the Holy Scriptures. Often it is a pivotal time in the history of God’s people. Noah’s Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat. Abraham took his son Isaac to Mount Moriah intending to sacrifice him. Mt Moriah is also the site of Solomon’s Temple.  Mt Sinai (Horeb) was where God revealed Himself to Moses and where the Ten Commandments were given. It was Mount Nebo where Moses struck the rock to provide water. It was Mount Zion where David built his palace and it was the Mount of Olives where Jesus delivered His sermon and where He was arrested. Mount Tabor is traditionally understood to be the place of His transfiguration. Even one of God’s names, El Shaddai can be translated “God of the Mountain” (NJB).

I was born and raised in Michigan where my family also visited the Porcupine Mountains near Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula. As a child they seemed imposing at about 1,600’ of elevation. In the mid 1960’s a friend of mine Dan McCosh and I drove to California from Michigan in June and I saw mountains, real mountains, for the first time. As we approached Loveland Colorado, The Rockies emerged immediately and abruptly from the plains.  My heart nearly stopped as we anticipated driving over Loveland Pass at nearly 12,000’, my hands immediately began to sweat. There was still considerable snow along the sides of the road as we crossed the Continental Divide. This view of the Rocky Mountains approaching Loveland made such an indelible impression on me that I knew someday I would live in an area where I could view and travel in God’s glorious mountains.
Now, in my twentieth year in Fresno CA, when the air is clear I can see much of the central Sierra Nevada Mountains. The mountains offer year round recreation and I am there once a week. There is no way to describe how my spirit is elevated each time I drive east into the mountains to begin a new adventure with friends or in the company of my Airedales Susie and Duke who change from pets to companions who especially enjoy the winter snow. I also spent four of the best days of my life with my sons as we backpacked a portion of the John Muir Trail together. Hearing them talking together as men around a campfire as I fell asleep in my tent was as beautiful a sound as any waterfall or river.

These mountain places are where I fellowship with God too for it was He who made these things and us also.  It can at times be as intimate an occasion for me as when I proclaim the words of the Great Thanksgiving during the Holy Eucharist.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.  ~John Muir

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ut Omnes Unum Sint (That they all may be one)

Fr. Dale Matson

"Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One" (Deuteronomy 6:4, NASB).

“That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21, NASB).

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” Acts 2:1, NASB).

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods but one God. (The Creed of Athanasius).

“We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.” (from the Nicene Creed).

“By Him and with Him, and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is Yours, Almighty Father, now and forever. AMEN. (Eucharistic Doxology).

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Eph. 4:4-5, NASB).

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35, NASB).

“We can do nothing well till we act ‘with one accord’; we can have no accord in action till we agree together in heart; we cannot agree without a supernatural influence; we cannot have a supernatural presence unless we pray for it; we cannot pray acceptably without repentance and confession. Our Church’s strength would be irresistible, humanly speaking, were it but at unity with itself.” (from Tract number 90 by John Henry Newman 1841).

“O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (BCP, ‘For the Unity of the Church’ p.818).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Only In Remembrance Of Me?

Fr. Dale Matson

“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1st Corinthians 11:23-25, KJV).

As a Baptist, I remember the table at the front of the church with the words “In remembrance of me”. I always understood that when they passed out the little cup of grape juice and the plate of bread crumbs, when we ate them, we would remember Jesus. There was no reference to the table as an altar (although they had altar calls every Sunday).

There is a sensibleness and certainty to reformed theology which also extends to the empty cross. We didn’t sacrifice Christ on the Altar (Nor do the Liturgical Churches) and we didn’t have to put Him back on the cross. Jesus was not in the communion elements and a crucifix was so off putting. That’s what those Catholics believed…and those Lutherans….and those Anglicans…..and those Orthodox.

“This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live forever. (John 6:50-58).

Eucharistic Prayer A (Holy Eucharist Rite II BCP)

The people remain standing. The Celebrant, whether bishop or priest,
faces them and sings or says

The Lord be with you.
People And also with you.
Celebrant Lift up your hearts.
People We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People It is right to give him thanks and praise.

Then, facing the Holy Table, the Celebrant proceeds

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and every
where to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of
heaven and earth.Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and
Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who for ever
sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:

Celebrant and People

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

The people stand or kneel.

Then the Celebrant continues

Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us
for yourself, and, when we had fallen into sin and become
subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus
Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human
nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the
God and Father of all.

He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself,
in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole

At the following words concerning the bread, the Celebrant is to hold it,
or lay a hand upon it; and at the words concerning the cup, to hold or
place a hand upon the cup and any other vessel containing wine to be consecrated.

On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our
Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks
to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take,
eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the
remembrance of me.”
After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given
thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you:
This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you
and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink
it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith:

Celebrant and People

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

The Celebrant continues

We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in
this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death,
resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.

Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the
Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new
and unending life in him. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom.

All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ: By him, and
with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor
and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever. AMEN.

No matter what is preached from the pulpit on any given Sunday, the Great Thanksgiving in the Liturgy always contains the Gospel. Amen

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Fr. Dale Matson

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”(Acts, 30b-31a, NASB).

There are two obvious questions that flow from this passage. What is the Jailer asking to be saved from and who is going to do it? Although theologians may quibble with me about this, salvation, conversion and being born again is essentially the same. Because of original sin, humans are born estranged from and enemies of God. It does not matter what the Jailer meant with his question because the answer of Paul and Silas understood it to mean saved from eternal separation from God. Salvation is obtained by turning over our will and life to Jesus Christ. Salvation is both a specific event and it is ongoing. (“…work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12b, NASB). The specific event is often referred to as a “Decision for Christ”. We usually think of Christ the Son as the one and only way to God the Father which is correct but Peter’s Confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” is followed by this statement from Jesus. “Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 16:17, NASB). It is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit who all witness to us about each other and themselves.

I believe human hearts are prepared by God through Holy Scripture, events (good and bad), the lives and witness of Christians and the beckoning of the Holy Spirit to call upon Christ for salvation. God creates a hunger for Him in our hearts that only He can fill. A good example of this preparation of the heart is When Phillip is prompted by the Holy Spirit to approach an Ethiopian official who happened to be reading a prophesy from the Old Testament about Christ at the same moment (Acts 8:26-40).

When Paul states in Romans, “All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13), it is not intended as a formula for salvation but a believing response to the Gospel message. The Gospel message offers us an opportunity to believe that Jesus Christ is who He says that He is and His redemptive sacrifice of Himself on the cross applies to all humans in general and you and me in particular. Finally, it is a turning over your life to His authority. In this we are reconciled to God and restored to relationship with Him. All Christians are prodigals who have been reconciled to God the Father through the person and work of Christ and the witness of the Holy Spirit.

I think the key decision for most folks does not begin with a “yes” to the existence of a God. At some level most believe that there is a God. Many folks begin with unbelief in the person and work of Christ but a desire to believe. Here the desire (will) to believe demonstrates that God has already begun a work in the heart of the individual. Others may call out to Christ, like the father of the demoniac, “Lord I do believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24b, NASB) Christ asks all of us the following question. “Who do you say that I am?” Thomas the doubter finally stated, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28) to the resurrected Christ. Is this your answer also? I pray that God would give you the faith to receive the truth of this message. Amen.

“There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, NASB).

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Didache: The First Catechism

Fr. Dale Matson

The Didache (Training) was written in the early first century, may have existed earlier as oral tradition and the author is unknown. The Didache was well known to the early fathers and accepted by some as Apocrypha but not as part of the New Testament canon. It is older than the canonical Gospels and developed independently from them.

“This Didache reveals more about how Christians saw themselves and how they lived their everyday lives than any book in the Christian Scriptures.” (A. Milavec, “The Didache”, ix, 2003).

The Didache is divided into five sections with almost half in section one (1) which deals with the “way of life”. The focus of the Didache was on Christian formation in a pagan world. Thus there is less emphasis on doctrine (which was still developing) and more on reformation of conduct. My intention is to briefly cover some of the main points of sections one 1:1-6:2) and two (6:3-11-2). This is approximately the first two thirds of the total content.

1:1 “There are two ways: one of life and one of death!” Thus begins the Didache which sounds a lot like the following from Deuteronomy, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” (30:19).

The way of life is defined as loving God and loving neighbor and the golden rule stated in the negative. This is also followed by a brief narrative possibly taken from portions of the Sermon on the Mount. The second rule deals with the commandments and adds six more. This is probably because many of the new converts were pagans not Jews.

1. You will not practice magic.
2. You will not be involved in potions (drugs).
3. You will not murder offspring by means of abortion.
4. You will not kill infants.
5. You will not corrupt boys.
6. You will not have illicit sex.

In addition there were rules for changing speech, attitude and cautions for vigilance that specific minor sins could lead to greater sins. All of this was guided by a spiritual mentor. The final admonition was a “warning against Innovators” (Ibid. p.61). There was also an opportunity for Reconciliation and this may have been a prototype of the Sacrament of Penance.

Section two deals with The Lord’s Prayer which should be prayed three times a day and was possibly used as template much like we have for our prayers of the people. Fasting was encouraged and a preference for “flowing water” baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Those who were not baptized were not allowed to participate in the Eucharist.

The Eucharist was celebrated with the bread and wine being consecrated by the celebrant and following the prayers of the celebrant, the itinerant “Prophets” would offer prayers as led by the Spirit for as long as the Spirit gave them utterance. Some of the comments about prophets indicate that they were not always trustworthy. It is possible that this eventually became the Preaching.

Much of Catechesis today focuses on learning the doctrines of the Church which continued to develop toward and find agreement in the ecumenical Church Councils that also determined the canon of Scripture. As the West becomes increasingly pagan and less Christian, we may find that the conduct trained into converts in the Didache, may need to be combined with the Orthodox doctrine of the church during Catechesis. The commandments of the Didache are a stunning reminder of the extent to which the pagan world has found its way into the contemporary church. Amen

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stewards Of The Mysteries Of God

Fr. Dale Matson

“Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1ST Corinthians 4:1, NASB).

Although St. Paul spoke as an apostle, I believe it is the charge to all those in Holy Orders. The verse essentially outlines the “General Orders” for the clergy of the Church of Jesus Christ. I used the term General Orders because in the military all recruits must memorize and obey the rules of a sentry. A sentry is someone expected to stand guard at a post and be responsible for that area.

As stewards of the mysteries of God, we are charged to care for and to pass on these mysteries to the next generation. What are these mysteries? The mysteries are the truths once delivered to the Saints. “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4, NASB).

The central truths of the faith are the mysteries of God. If you examine the Nicene Creed carefully, it is not just doctrine or even dogma. At its foundation, it is truth as mystery received by faith. We believe that God created everything that exists, even the things we cannot see. We believe that Jesus Christ is both God and a perfect man conceived by God and born of a Virgin. We believe that He was crucified and died as a sacrifice on our behalf. We believe that Jesus Christ came back to life as predicted and ascended bodily into Heaven and will return to establish an eternal Kingdom that will include us. We believe in one God Who Is also the Holy Spirit Who is the Giver of life. There is one Church and one baptism.

The Christian Church is a Church of Mystery. It is miraculous and mystical. It also is the Spiritual meeting the material in the Sacraments and in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The Church began at Pentecost and is awaiting the return of Her Bridegroom Jesus Christ.

What we cannot fully explain, we may not adjust to suit our understanding. These mysteries are perceived by faith, affirmed by the faithful throughout generations and authenticated by God the Holy Spirit. These truths are the breath of the Holy Spirit and blood of Jesus Christ flowing through His body the Church.

“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24, NASB).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Evelyn Underhill: Mystic

Fr. Dale Matson

“For he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6b, NASB).

June 15th is the Anglican Feast Day of Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941). Perhaps the most salient comment about her in “Lesser Feasts and Fasts” is, “Evelyn Underhill’s most valuable contribution to spiritual literature must surely be her conviction that the mystical life is not only open to a saintly few, but to anyone who cares to nurture it…”

Mysticism is an important ingredient in the "Prescription Strength" Church. I find it extraordinary that a woman from the lay order of the church would instruct clergy in the Church of England in her day. By what authority did she speak? We know. She, like other mystics had an insatiable hunger for God and understood sanctification as a developmental process. Like the Kingdom of God however, it is an upside down developmental process. We don’t “Self Actualize” (Maslow) or “Individualize” (Jung).

“Underhill’s research indicates that there are two distinct thrusts or directions to the full mystic consciousness. One is the increasing consciousness or vision of God; the other is the inner transmutation of the personality, the rebuilding or the restructuring of the self on an inward and deeply all pervasive level. Neither thrust can be accomplished without the complete transcendence of the small ego centric self” ("Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics", Marsha Sinetar, 1986).

Spiritual development requires an ongoing surrender and submission to God. For the mystic there is a restlessness that cannot find rest until they find rest in God. The mystic divests himself of his own identity through ongoing conversion to Christ who is his new and authentic identity. This is different than the psychotic who cannot give up an identity that he never had to begin with.

She saw mysticism as a normal part of the Christian Church. Mysticism is not ethereal; it is the meat and potatoes of intentional spiritual development. Her lifelong attraction to the Roman Catholic Church as a repository of mystery and mysticism opposed a more rationalist and enlightened Anglican heritage that diminished the miraculous and iconography. The sensual avenues of God’s presence had become sidewalks.

Benedict Groeschel has an excellent description of Spiritual Development toward the mystical life in his book “Spiritual Passages: The Psychology of Spiritual Development” (1993) that is in basic agreement with Underhill’s spiritual developmental stages. His stages are Purgative, Illuminative, and Unitive. In the Unitive stage there is a loss of all defenses (again this is different than the psychotic who also is undefended). This final stage is quite different for the Christian than the Nirvana of a Buddhist where with the Buddhist; there is detachment from the world. “Where Underhill struck new ground was in her insistence that this state of union produced a glorious and fruitful creativeness, so that the mystic who attains this final perfectness is the most active doer - not the reclusive dreaming lover of God.” (

Our reading for this day from the book of Wisdom includes the following. “Though she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets” (7:27).

Evelyn Underhill is one of those souls. She is an infusion of mysticism and with it, genuine feminism into His church. True feminism is meek and wise. True feminism asks for the water of life from the bridegroom Jesus Christ.

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13, NASB).

Monday, June 6, 2011

Seeking the Lost: Stories of Search and Rescue

Fr. Dale Matson

I wrote this book because these search stories are both compelling and instructive and seeking the lost is an extension of my vocation as a priest. I believe that anyone who goes into the woods can experience a heaven on earth if they are properly prepared but it can become a hell on earth if they are not prepared or lost. The most important safety device is not a GPS, Satellite Phone or even a knife. It is good judgment. Some of those who perish are killed by their own egos. Pride, stubbornness or selfishness can be the crucial factor. I have never been lost myself but know that when traveling alone, there is always a risk for even the most experienced individual.

I am also only too aware that not all of those we looked for wanted to be found. Some of those that we found had died by their own hand and some who died were never found. It is my hope that this book may serve to interest others to volunteer for search and rescue work, point out serious errors made by those who were lost, and offer knowledge to those who are less familiar with the wilderness. I have attempted to accurately portray a representative sample of searches I have been a part of and to balance the search accounts with both successful and unsuccessful searches. That is the sobering reality of Search and Rescue efforts. Much of the search work is not glamorous. It is slow, painful, deliberate and careful walking and sometimes crawling. Most searches end before the searchers arrive at the Command Post or before they are deployed on a search. Perhaps the most important task of the individual charged with Incident Command is how, when and why assets are deployed.

This book is written for four groups of individuals. Firstly it is written for those involved with search and rescue. Hopefully there may be something instructive in these stories. It is also written for the lay person who is interested in the mystery and detective work involved in the searches. The book is also written for those who go into the wilderness as hikers, backpackers and hunters who may also find it instructive. Lastly, it is written for those who lost a family member in the wilderness and either know the outcome or remain uncertain with no closure. There is no closure for us either. May the tragic death of their loved ones not be in vain. May it serve a purpose. May someone be saved in the future because of something in this book.

This book is a collection of stories about what went on, sight unseen. It is an attempt to illustrate the magnitude of the effort in search operations. I can honestly say that I have never witnessed an unprofessional act during the searches I have been involved with. The people involved in search and rescue understand the gravity of their task.

I dedicate this book to all those involved in Search and Rescue work. This includes those with search dogs, those on horseback, and those in off road vehicles, those in the air and those of us on foot. This also includes the families of those who search and the employers who allow the volunteers the time off to search. I especially want to thank Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, the deputies I have worked with and the civilians on our mountaineering team. Half of the proceeds for this book will be donated to the Mountaineering Unit of the Fresno County Search and Rescue Team.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The In Between Times: Do Not Leave Us Comfortless

Fr. Dale Matson

A portion of our Collect for the Seventh Sunday of Easter states, “Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit”. We are at an important in between place in the church year. We are awaiting comfort and empowerment. Christ ascended into Heaven forty days after Easter. Ascension Day is one of the seven Principal Feast Days in the church year and was celebrated last Thursday. Next Sunday is another of the seven Principal Feast Days. It is the Day of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit descends on the Apostles and the Church is born, empowered to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Until this point, the Apostles were spending a good deal of time behind a locked door in the upper room. They were obediently waiting but while they waited, there was no boldness, only fear. They had seen their resurrected Lord for forty days and then He ascended to Heaven. Christ told the Apostles to wait a few days in Jerusalem for empowerment by the Holy Spirit. He said they would receive a “baptism”. This period of waiting did amount to a matter of days and this Sunday would be day three of ten. The in between time from Christ’s Ascension to Pentecost was a matter of days.

There is a repeated cycle of joy and sadness for the Apostles with the in between waiting times. In the story of Lazarus, Christ’s friends were happy to see Him but sad that He had not come sooner. While they awaited His arrival, their brother Lazarus died.

After the Israelites fled Egypt, they spent forty years wandering in the wilderness before they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. There is a purpose to the in between times. It is waiting on the Spirit of God to fall upon us afresh. It is to learn patience and obedience. It is to seek the will of God.

How much of your life has taken place in the in between times. How often has a situation seemed to drag on with no resolution? How about the letter from the insurance company? How about that job you applied for. Why haven’t you heard anything yet? What about the diagnosis? When will the doctor’s office call you about it? Have you prayed about it? Have you prayed and prayed about it and not received an answer? Have you finally come to a place where you said, “Not my will Lord but Your will be done.”

Christ was awaiting His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and wanted God to remove the sentence of death from Him. It was a terrible in between time for Him. It was the time between His arrest and His crucifixion. It is so hard to say to God, “Thy will be done”.

The church itself also called the bride of Christ is in between times awaiting the return of the bridegroom. The church is called to be in the world and not of it. This view shapes the churches’ response to this same culture.

We are not left comfortless during these in between times. Christ was born, Christ died, and Christ will come again. The Holy Spirit is here to comfort us. He is here and even called the comforter and the counselor. He is the one called alongside as the advocate. He is that still small voice offering exhortation, encouragement and empowerment. Listen to Him. Listen to Him in the silences between the background noises. He has much to tell you. Amen.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sex Drugs and Rock and Roll: Choosing Death

Fr. Dale Matson

"Sex and drugs and rock and roll
Is all my brain and body need.
Sex and drugs and rock and roll
Are very good indeed." (Ian Dury 1977)

“But for the cowardly, the faithless, the vile, the murderers, those who commit sexual immorality, those who use drugs and cast spells, the idolaters and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the second death.” (Rev. 21:8, Common English Bible).

The late Ian Dury’s lyrics were not a 1970’s anthem signaling a new era. The lyrics were a summative mantra portraying a decline that had already become mainstream in the 1960’s. The era of the 1960’s was a turning point for Western Society and I was very much a part of it.

Birth control pills were drugs that allowed for sex without pregnancy and were introduced in 1960. At that time sexually transmitted diseases were not as rampant or as potentially deadly. It was called “Free Love” but it was really uncommitted serial sexual encounters. The late Billy Preston coined the phrase, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” and it later became the title of a song by Stephen Stills (1970). We knew what it meant.

If Charles Wesley conveyed faith, service and doctrine through his hymns, the Beatles, “Satan’s Jesters” the Rolling Stones, and later groups like Guns and Roses breathed new life into an “old immorality”. It was antigovernment, disrespect for authority, anarchistic, hedonistic and narcissistic. Heavy Metal Groups followed with names like Megadeath and Black Sabbath and spewed nihilist notions of their own. I worked Grateful Dead concerts in Wisconsin as a mental health counselor and saw firsthand the drug induced hell they brought with them. Drugs are not just the cause of so much sorrow and death. Drugs are a symptom of a life devoid of meaning and purpose seeking respite from a living hell through self-medication. There is also the inestimable legacy of brain damaged and aborted children.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

My generation chose death and is rightfully looked at with contempt by succeeding generations. As my cohort finds itself in the final developmental stage moving toward the death they so avidly courted and embraced during their lives, they mistakenly think that recycling and driving a Prius will undo the damage they have inflicted on the generations that follow and sooth the guilt they attempt to deny.

The theme song for my generation is “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll. The fitting recessional hymn could be “Is That All There Is?”. It was also a late 1960’s song by Peggy Lee. We were vain, conceited and turned our back on God. I hope and pray that those who follow us will find meaning and purpose in Jesus The Christ. I ask that God and our progeny would forgive us. As we approach the Season of Pentecost may God the Holy Spirit fall upon us afresh, quicken our mortal bodies and renew our strength. Amen

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Final Stage Of Life

Fr. Dale Matson

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12, NASB).

I have entered what the developmental psychologist Erik Erikson referred to as the eighth and final stage of life. It is called Ego integrity versus despair. Each stage of life for Erikson holds a developmental challenge that must be mastered.

What is not generally considered is that old age does not present a singular final stage task. It requires the integration of all the tasks of the previous stages and the same questions answered at previous stages demand different answers in the final stage. Do I trust those around me? Am I a good person? Who am I? The answer to who I am as an adolescent is different than the answer to who I am as an older adult. I am no longer defined by professional affiliations and credentials. Many personal bests are behind me but I have found that there is a creative surge less limited by distractions, and informed by experiences. What I have to give is no longer material.

What saddens me is that many of my lifelong friends have stopped looking forward with optimism. There is an unnecessary cynicism, mistrust and guardedness. There is resentment about how things turned out. They have not made the good transition to old age. In some cases their vocations defined who they had become. Once retired, they began to shrink. It is not that they took a wrong turn as much as they stopped moving altogether. They stopped being engaged and initiating. They stopped being a grown up and became a victim.

They became hyperreflective and lost the battle of intimacy won in a previous stage. Their self-worth was based on their sense of productivity and the myth of personal power. Their perspective did not successfully expand to embrace the importance of a good word spoken at the precise time. They never came to understand the universe changing prayer of intercession. They are drawing down their account with no more deposits. Their depression is self-induced and fed with predictive certainty.

It does not have to be this way. Things can still be turned around. The final stage of life can be one of contentment. Yes, there is a loss of power, dignity, autonomy and productivity but as John the Baptist said, “He must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30, NASB). For the Christian, loss is gain and dying is gaining eternal life. This life is not about us. It never was and never will be. Our final self; the finished product is Jesus Christ.

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”(Philippians 4:13, NASB)