Monday, July 30, 2012

God Is The Author Of Our Experiences

 Looking North From Glenn Pass With Rae Lakes Below
(John Muir Trail-Kings Canyon National Park)

Fr. Dale Matson

*“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” (James 1:16-18, ESV)
Some of the continuing struggles I have are understanding my experiences in light of God's guidance.  The questions are twofold. 1. Is this experience bad?  2. Is this experience from God? I was hiking last week and met a bear on the narrow switchbacks as I ascended. A bear is something I always feared both in reality and my dreams. It surprised me that I had no fear during or after the encounter. God was saying to me that anticipatory fear is not faith. The weather began to deteriorate as the Sierras tend make their own weather. It began to rain as I continued to climb. Then it began to thunder and lightning around me. I was considering turning around and wondered if God was in this hike with me or wanted me off the mountain. I was about 14 miles out from the trailhead and only needed 10 more miles to reach my overnight destination at Rae Lakes. I could still get back to the trailhead by dark if necessary. Sometimes I wonder where the line is between fearfulness, appropriate fearfulness and foolishness.
I decided to continue hiking, knowing that my gear would stay dry and my rain jacket would keep me from getting wet also. As I continued to climb up to Glenn Pass before dropping down to Rae Lakes, the sky began to clear the rain began to stop. I said, “Lord, I guess You wanted me to keep going.” At that point, I thought of three reasons why the rain had been good. The rain settled the dust on the trail. It made much of the climb cooler and I needed less water. Finally, it made the air clear and the photographs were not just clear but the light was outstanding. It reminded me that God is the Father of light and all that may pass between us including clouds and rain does not change His nature. He remains the same. He is Good, He is light and His gifts are good.
Finally, I was reminded of the verse from Romans, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Knowing and believing this, is there any other prayer than “Thy Will be done” that we should be praying without ceasing? 
* Epistle reading for Feast Day of Joseph of Arimathaea Wednesday August 1st.   

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lions and Tigers and Bears II

Fr. Dale Matson

“For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.” (Job 3:25, KJV)

In a previous posting, I discussed the topic of lions and tigers and bears.

I was backpacking this week out of Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon National Park. My plan was to connect with the John Muir Trail (JMT), go north, and complete the Rae Lakes Loop in two days. Out bound, about two miles from the trailhead at “Roads End” I crossed a footbridge.  I exited the wooded part of the trail and began climbing a series of steep switchbacks on an exposed slope that ascended 1,000’ over the next 1.5 miles.

Although there are views on the ascent, most of the time I was watching my steps to avoid stumbling on rocks, roots and loose scree that acts like marbles under your feet. I was glad to be hiking this section in the morning when it was cooler. I reflected on past experiences on this section of trail, where I had seen a few mule deer on the inbound descent. Generally, animals create their own “use trails” but frequently follow human trails for ease of travel. I once followed a pair of coyotes for miles on the Glacier Point (Yosemite) cross country ski trail. They were both quite upset with me, turning occasionally to bark at me and were reluctant to eventually abandon the easy travel of the packed trail.

As I was finishing my climb this week, I looked up to see a large male black bear standing in the middle of the trail. He had been descending and stopped when he saw me. I stopped and the first thing that came to my mind was denial. I thought, “That is not a bear that I see in front of me.” Well… yes, it was a bear. I quickly realized that there was not enough room on the narrow switchback for the bear and me to pass each other. To my left was a sheer wall and to my right was a steep embankment.  It was not a Mexican standoff since the bear had all of the logistical advantages over me with his size, speed and power. Not sure of what to do next, I decided to take his photograph. While I was aiming the camera, he took one last look at me and ambled over the steep side of the trail. He walked past me and got back on the trail below me, continuing his journey.

I have seen bears before in my years if trail running, hiking and backpacking but the distance between me and the bears provided a comfort zone. Sometimes I have come across fresh bear scat and that has caused me more concern than actually seeing them in the distance. This time was different. He was close enough that I could see the flies on his head and there was no exit.  It did not occur to me to try and scare him away. I was once “bluff charged” by a bear near Devil’s Postpile, in a campground. Fortunately this was not a “campground savvy” bear.

The amazing thing for me was that I was not fearful at all. After a lifetime of dreams about being chased by bears and the ongoing anxiety of a close bear encounter, I was not afraid. I honestly believe the bear sensed my demeanor and was not alarmed by anything I did. Even later, upon reflection, I was not concerned about the experience. I don’t mean to diminish the potential danger here but torturing ourselves with anxiety about possible scenarios is not the substance of faith. Fear and anxiety are a reverse faith. In fact, God may provide a feared reality to show us how shallow and empty our fears are much of the time. I did complete the loop and the link to the photographs is here.  Thank You Lord for this opportunity!


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Role Playing: Good Versus Evil

Fr. Dale Matson

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14, ESV)
Heroes have been our role models and as Christians our ultimate role model is Christ. He is all that is good, virtuous, loving and transcendent. He is Who we are baptized into and becoming through the process of sanctification.

The Actor William Boyd was a ne’er–do-well and loser in life. After taking the role of the heroic Hopalong Cassidy, he decided to take on the character of the person he portrayed. William Boyd was  changed and became a virtuous man. What was uncharacteristic for the time was that “Hoppy” dressed in black including a black hat. Traditionally, that was the clothing color of the villain. However, it was obvious through his interactions with others that he was the hero and even though the Lone Ranger wore a mask, he too was one of our heroes. There was never confusion about which side they were on. They were good.

As time went on and Hollywood became more “sophisticated”, the lines between the protagonist hero and the antagonist villain became increasingly blurred. With Hoppy and the Lone Ranger, the force they used to apprehend and subdue evil was commensurate and adequate, not overwhelming. Later the age old morality play of good versus evil would have the protagonist unfairly victimized and wrongly persecuted. The protagonist would then respond not with commensurate but overwhelming force. The “Commando” and “Snatched” are examples of unleashed carnage following the kidnapping of a daughter. In the film “Tell Them Valdez Is Coming” Burt Lancaster as sheriff, is tortured and affixed to a cross, unlike Christ however he spends the remainder of film killing off the bad guys.  Other films that come to mind are “Payback” with Mel Gibson and “Lethal Weapon” where Gibson, the protagonist is as much a sociopath as the bad guys. There is also a problem with the disturbing film “Tightrope” where the lives of the serial killer and the detective played by Clint Eastwood are so similar and intertwined; you suspect that Eastwood is chasing himself.

In the film “Taxi Driver” Robert DeNiro is an unlikely protagonist as described in the advertisement for the film. “A mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge to violently lash out, attempting to save a teenage prostitute in the process.” Is this a protagonist with which we would want to identify? Is this the hero we would want to become? These are only a few examples of media madness.

And now we have the latest rendition of Batman. He is not just a hero; he is a superhero with superpowers. Unfortunately he is also a mentally unstable and traumatized protagonist with a dual personality, who has made crime fighting a personal crusade. His adversaries are a sordid collection of cartoonish boogey men hardly worth imitating dangerous even to portray.*
What has been lost in this morality play of good and evil is the heroic qualities of the protagonist. The hero has become the villain and the villain has become the hero.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Iron Deficiency Anemia And Treatment

Fr. Dale Matson

“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
I have discussed the problem I had with blood loss from surgery in a prior post. At that point I began treating my anemia with food and supplements to increase my hematocrit (HMT) and hemoglobin. What I have done since that time was to include lab tests specifically for anemia. What I discovered was that my iron serum (26) and iron saturation (7) were dangerously low even though my HMT and hemoglobin were nearing the low end of normal. What I have done since mid-May is to develop a treatment regimen designed to raise my iron saturation and iron serum and hope that the hemoglobin and HMT would increase in response to more available iron. My goal was to increase the iron supply in my body.

First, I would like to offer my symptoms of iron deficiency anemia that I experienced. My resting pulse of (60) was 20 beats higher than normal (40). I couldn’t do my normal exercising with the same power and speed. I was very cold all of the time and needed an electric blanket in addition to a heavy comforter for sleeping. I needed a wet suit to swim in 75 degree water. I would get dizzy just from bending to pick up something. I had lots of headaches. My skin was pale. I think it affected me psychologically with a mild depression and anxiety too. Let’s just say the problem was pervasive and sapped my strength to the point that I was fatigued most of the time. I would sigh and yawn. Some folks told me I had exercise induced asthma. I was simply not getting enough oxygen.  Athletes can have diminished V02 max because of this type anemia and their performance drops dramatically. I believe sometimes that what is referred to as overtraining can be an exercise induced iron deficiency anemia.
Second, if you look up the numbers, you will find that incidence of reported anemia is greater than 10% of the population overall. I suspect that many folks are pre anemic or anemic and don’t even know it. The numbers are probably much higher. They may go to their doctor and report malaise, chronic fatigue or some other problem and not be identified as anemic. I believe Iron Deficiency anemia is grossly under-diagnosed.

Here is the good news. I was able to treat this problem using food and food supplements to the point that I am no longer anemic. I remind the reader that this treatment was with consultation from my physician and my sister who is a retired medical technician. The only problem with many physicians is that they learn their trade in a hospital, so “not being sick” is being “well” from their perspective. Unfortunately, not being sick is not necessarily optimum health. Please have your physician ok any food or supplements you anticipate using first.

The internet is a great place to conduct research and I received quite an education. The best source of iron is what is called Hemi Iron. Meat is a source, especially liver and beef. I decided to resume beef once a week. Another source of Hemi Iron is in desiccated liver tablets. The best Hemi Iron source that I came across is a product called “Proferrin ES available in limited amounts from Colorado Biolabs Inc. I promote it because I believe the three tablets per day recommended on the label probably did more than anything else to boost my iron (I am not a paid spokesperson). Hemi Iron is the most usable form of iron for the body. Iron pills, like ferrous sulfate are not absorbed well, were problematic for me and gave me tremendous heartburn. Others I have talked to about this have had problems with heartburn also. You are also encouraged to avoid calcium within a two hour window before and after taking the iron supplements because it reduces the iron absorption. Vitamin C, folic acid and vitamin B12 are encouraged to help with uptake. I also take black strap molasses as a non-hemi iron source and enjoy this “medicine” that tastes like licorice. Mixed nuts and dried fruit and leafy green vegetables are also sources I used. Finally, I also use a product called nutritional yeast flakes which are gluten free for B12.

It is now mid-July and here are the numbers for my iron serum (78) and Iron saturation (22. My treadmill speed is up to 6.5 mph from 4.5 mph with a lower average and maximum heart rate than before. My symptoms are no longer evident and now I am going to reduce the amount of my iron intake to maintenance levels. There are lots of warnings about iron overload and that could be a serious problem for some. That is why I have had lab testing done every three weeks and paid for it out of my own pocket. I have used Econo Labs (I am not a paid spokesperson for them either). It is easy to set testing up over the internet and to pay in advance. They have a quick turnaround time and will email the results to you and your physician. The results are easy to read and normal ranges follow your results.

Why have I posted this on our website? I posted this because as Christians, we are called to comfort others with the comfort that we received (2 Corinthians 1:4)  Thank you Lord!  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

TEC And The Loss Of Logos

Fr. Dale Matson

There is a gradual loss of identity within The Episcopal Church. I believe that what was once a Christian church is now becoming an activist organization; a faith based initiative. Like so many colleges that were begun by Christian denominations, TEC too, is now becoming secular. TEC leadership has become human focused to the extent that there are no barriers to inclusion. Baptism is “ancient” and “normative” but not necessary for inclusion in the body of Christ.

They are, in fact, ashamed of Christ and willing to see Him as only an avenue to a liberated life of self-affirmation in the here and now. I’m OK and Your OK. It is now the “I am special” church, yet the members no longer see themselves as what St. Paul referred to as a “peculiar people” who are called out of a worldly life as witnesses to the transforming love of Jesus Christ. They are not called to holy living and they are not in search of Christ. They are not sinners seeking God’s mercy; they are victims in search of justice. They are called to “live into” their natural selves, whatever that might be. In short, TEC has lost the pearl of great price; Jesus Christ Who is our true and authentic self. He is also the identity and head of the corporate and mystical body, the church. He is the Logos and the affect driven leadership is not interested in God informed reason any longer. They are too busy tithing their dill of diversity.

They don’t see the need to repent individually for personal sin but they do repent organizationally for failures to discover the blessed uniqueness of each kind of new personhood; for the insensitivity to other cultures. Whom did they fail to include this time around? We will see next time around.

The leadership seems almost “affect driven” in their need to avoid discernment as being judgmental and hateful and all in the name of inclusivity. The gate to the Kingdom of God is narrow but the red doors of TEC are wide open.  TEC, as it sheds doctrine, reminds me of a cell that no longer has a semi permeable membrane to filter out what is harmful and to allow in what is nurturing.  The organization is like Star Trek’s “Vger” moving through space and time collecting this and that, becoming an eclectic blob and seeking its creator “The god of our understanding”.

There seems to be a condescending anger and stealth cynicism that is resident in the leadership. They use phrases that are intended to send one message to the pew sitters while winking at one another that they have taken one more brick out of the church foundation of tradition. They know that only rubes believe in Scripture as God’s Word, Hell, Heaven, Christ’s divinity and even bodily resurrection. Reason informed by science is hip not knowledge revealed by God. The Kingdom of God is the material world of the here and now. TEC is an advocate of the millennium development goals and a sustainable planet, not the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

To whom will they leave the planet?  They are too concerned about their carbon footprint (not the one shod for the preparation of the Gospel) to breed. They are vocal and proud advocates for abortion with a seminary head that calls abortion a blessing. TEC leadership has lost Christ and He can do no mighty works there. They have traded in the saving red blood of Jesus for a green earth gospel. After all, would a loving God crucify His Son? What kind of God is that?
I write this because there is still a faithful remnant and God has honored their presence, obedience and witness. At some point if they too also leave or are driven out, then Christ will remove His lampstand and the church will be a church in name only.      

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

We Have No Confidence In The Flesh

'Cloud's Rest' Yosemite 

Fr. Dale Matson

“For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3, KJV)

As I age, I have increasingly less confidence in a body that once was the source of confidence that rose to the level of pride. At one time I would run solo on the Sierra Mountain trails with only a single bottle fanny pack, some energy gel packs and a few water purification tablets for water resupply. Now the pace is slower and I include a satellite phone, GPS and hooded waterproof shell. Micah True, the famous ultra-runner, was found dead in May of this year. Ten years my junior, he had no backup plan and told no one where he would be. This is not uncommon in the ultra-running community.

The body I could always depend on has become less dependable the last two years and recovering from two surgeries has been more circular than linear. Even going down the stairs, I now use the hand rails. I have had to forego bread, carbonated beverages, dairy products and adjusted my diet to include much more hemi iron to combat anemia. Gastric reflux means the Tums are always at hand. BPH means less coffee and more bathrooms.

Travel is more difficult because the routine, rituals and rhythm of home life are interrupted. Things are not where you want them or not there when you need them. The numerous eyeglasses with different power used for reading and the computer are reduced to one pair on a lanyard around the neck. Adequate hearing now requires a hearing aid. I pull through and park in a space that I can drive forward out of rather than backing out.
As I see photographs of myself or even my own shadow as I run, I see an older bent over man and he is me. Where there is no confidence in self, there is no pride either. When Jesus talked about binding the ‘strong man’ it is generally thought of as Jesus binding Satan on this earth and stealing his human slaves, there is another layer that is worth consideration.

This can also refer to the stubborn, stiff necked proud individuals with many attributes and skills. These kinds of people do not know God and do not feel a need to seek God because they are self-reliant. In a sense, they are their own gods. Here God breaks into their life, ties them up and steals their goods. What are their goods? Their goods are things like Pride, Selfishness, Self-Reliance, and Arrogance. Do you know people like this? I tend in that direction…..less so now.

This can also be true of the Christian. There is a kind of self-idolatry in self-confidence. There is a kind of prideful selfhood. As St. Paul noted, “And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) Lord, bind the strong man in me that my soul may be preserved.