Saturday, December 31, 2016

Holy Name Sunday 2016

Fr. Dale Matson

The Heart Of The Matter

Tradition and the 1928 prayer book call Sunday January 1st (2017), “Feast of the Circumcision of our Lord”, not Holy Name Sunday (1979 BCP). I certainly realize there is a relationship. A baby boy is given his Jewish name at the ritual circumcision. The name chosen by the parents is considered prophetic. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
I would like to focus as much on the “circumcision" aspect as the “name” part especially because the 1928 opening collect which I would like to include, refers to a circumcision of the heart. Right now the heart is a big issue for me and I want to explore this further. The Christian life consists in much more than taking care of our body.  As many of you know, my best friend Phil died of a heart attack a month ago and I had two stents placed in an artery to my heart last week. The night following my procedure my blood pressure became very high and then became extremely low. The crash cart and several nurses later, I was stable again. I believe your prayers helped the medical team make good decisions and act decisively. I can’t begin to say how important family including our brothers and sisters from St. James have helped. Lani Borgwardt who recently had a stent placed following her heart attack sent me an encouraging email the morning of my procedure. My grandsons left hand made get well cards on our doorstep. Sharon was there to pray and wait. So many people have shown their concern.
In our opening collect for this Sunday from the 1928 Prayer book, we hear,” ALMIGHTY God, who made thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” The circumcision of Jesus was symbolic in his shedding of blood, obedience to the Law and a preview of his future sacrifice. His circumcision also underscores his humanity.
God’s intent is that circumcision of the flesh represents a much deeper circumcision of the heart. In our Gospel lesson Luke states, “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (2:19). Later, Luke states again “and his mother kept all these things in her heart” (2:51b).
When we hear of Mary the mother of Jesus, we often think of the phrase, “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” While her womb was important and necessary, in fact, God chose her not because of her womb but because of her heart, her immaculate heart. It is the sacred heart of Christ and the immaculate heart of Mary. When Luke states that Mary pondered things in her heart, he is also drawing a relationship to Mary’s mind. Scripture often uses the heart and mind interchangeably.
Modern medicine is more focused on the heart as a pump but the heart is so much more than that. The ancient Greeks thought of the heart as the seat of the emotions. The Chinese also connect the organs to the emotions. People can die of a broken heart over the death of someone they love. An example of this is the recent death of Debbie Reynolds who died the day following the death of her daughter Carrie Fisher.
Dr. Vijai P. Sharma stated “The heart is also a hormonal organ. Among other hormones, it produces one, which is labeled by some as the "balancing hormone," because it contributes to the balancing of other hormones. This same hormone can facilitate the reduction or increase of stress hormones. The heart may also be responsible for the production of "Oxytocin," fondly referred to as the "love hormone. The love hormone plays an important part in our emotional and social development. For example, Oxytocin is in action when a mother feeds and tends her child. Compassion, caring, love, appreciation, gratitude, forgiveness and other behaviors that are the fabric of our family and society, may have a lot to do with how well the heart is functioning at the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels.”
            So is it that our heart is the victim of stress and becomes damaged? Scripture does state that in the last days men’s hearts will fail them from fear. (Luke 21:26) But the heart is also the source of stress. “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45).
            We often hear of a “heart healthy diet” and I can say that I have been pretty careful about what I eat. I have also gotten more than adequate exercise and adequate rest. I have kept a personal journal and even recorded my exercise sessions and heart rates for nearly 25 years. While my conduct and life style have been ‘heart healthy’ these last 25 years, my interior life has remained unhealthy. I want to be clear here and state that I am speaking about myself and not generalizing to others. St. Teresa of Calcutta died of heart disease.
            One could blame heredity but both of my folks died of cancer in their 90’s. So what is the source of my heart problem? Jesus stated, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” I have defeated the life giving medicine of Jesus in my life. I am a worrier. While I have been careful about the food I eat, and my exercise, I have not been careful about the information to which I have exposed myself. I have been careful about what I put in my mouth but not what I have allowed access to my brain through my eyes and ears. I have actively sought out things that trouble me. The action movies that I like are also violent. I have actively sought out things that stir me up and make me angry. I have majored in minors. I more often listen to Rock and Roll groups that advocate things I am against instead of Mozart or Brahms. Generally, those who are impatient, angry and controlling have more heart problems and that is me also. In a sense, I have been a willing participant in compromising my health and well-being. The late Christian psychiatrist Carl Menninger wrote a book called “Man Against Himself” where he discussed how the residue of original sin continues to influence our thoughts, decisions and actions.
            It doesn’t seem to me that there is much difference than what God referred to numerous times as those with uncircumcised hearts and what St. Paul describes in Roman chapter seven. The person in Romans chapter seven can be described as the carnal Christian. The carnal Christian does not do what his or her mind says is the right thing to do. The carnal Christian continues to do what he or she knows is the wrong thing to do. It is only by the counsel and empowerment of God the Holy Spirit that we overcome this self-destructive behavior. This self destructive behavior was so firmly entrenched with me that I had to pray for two years just to get the desire to quit smoking. January 10th will be my 34th anniversary of quitting smoking and my eight-year anniversary in Holy Orders.  
So what is the medicine God has prescribed for folks who need circumcision of the heart? Let’s look at some of Mary’s qualities. She was humble and full of grace. An arrogant person is more vulnerable and more easily insulted than the humble person. The gracious person is not the self-righteous cop ever vigilant and looking for others to mess up. Mary was holy and filled with piety. She trusted in God and persevered in the face of great sorrow. She had a love in her heart for her son Jesus and for God.
Anglican Priest John Wesley stated, “…Circumcision of heart implies humility, faith, hope, and charity. Humility, a right judgment of ourselves, cleanses our minds from those high conceits of our own perfection, from that undue opinion of our own abilities and attainments, which are the genuine fruit of a corrupted nature.” The uncircumcised heart is full of arrogance, conceit and pride.
Let’s look at the heart medicine God has provided with His “Fruits of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23). "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." It is the fruits of the spirit that circumcise the heart of the Christian. As Jesus noted, “You shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:20). Does this mean I will disregard my doctor’s prescriptions? Does this mean I will ignore my doctor and throw away my blood thinner, blood pressure medicine, and cholesterol reducer? Of course it doesn’t.
St. Paul states in Romans, “…a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person's praise is not from other people, but from God. (2:29). Are you a ‘Law abiding Christian or a Christian filled with grace like Mary our spiritual mother?
 Circumcision of the heart is allowing God to turn this stony heart into a heart of flesh. In Ezekiel God states, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (36:26).
The prophet Jeremiah stated, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh— Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.”
Where is our heart in all of this? Do we secretly find joy in the suffering of others who offend us? Do we lack compassion for those less fortunate? Do we remain silent when others swear using our Lord’s name? What topics occupy much of our thought life? In Alcoholics Anonymous, this is called “Stinking Thinking”. I am disobedient and sin because I worry. St. Paul said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Are you circumcised of heart? We say in our ‘Collect for Purity’, “Lord, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts”. While love is the primary ingredient of a pure heart, St. Paul offers the best counsel on what should be on our minds. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8, NASB)
 “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15) Does fear of death guide and direct our lives?
 The more I age and my health declines, the more the following passage comes to mind. “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3) At one time I had great confidence in my flesh and this prideful confidence was a source of distance between me and God and even my brothers and sisters.
 Lord, let us begin this new year with circumcised hearts that we would have humility, faith, hope and love; that our confidence would rest in You alone. Amen  


Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Fitness god

Dale Matson

As I sat in my cardiologist’s office with my wife Sharon yesterday, I asked him how I could have finished the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run and Hawaii Ironman after midlife if my arteries were so bad. He said, “Because you were and are incredibly fit.”
It was always a source of pride for me that I had reformed my lifestyle in my forties. I stopped drinking, smoking and lost 60 lbs. by a change in diet and exercise. At one point later on, I came to believe that if one was not “marathon fit”, one was not fit at all.
I was primarily a runner initially and that was my drug of choice. With all the constant “Training” I suffered the usual overuse injuries like ‘runners knee’ and torn hamstrings. There was a mystery injury that kept me from running consistently for two years. As I look back now, I believe it was Popliteal Tendonitis. Of course this pain didn’t stop me because being fit was more important than being sound. I believe it was Hal Higdon who once said that runners were the fittest group of injured people he ever met.
Getting into triathlons was an epiphany for me since I could spread the abuse around thus limiting training injuries. Of course one muscle, the heart, was ‘training’ all the time. I adopted the ‘Tri-Life’ and continue this exercise format even though I no longer compete.
My performance has slowed considerably and even though I reached my maximum predicted heart rate on a treadmill stress test two weeks ago; the cardiologist saw evidence of Ischemia on the EKG. I wanted a definitive answer and had equivocal results on a thallium stress test six years ago. I have pushed myself over the line so many times that I have learned to ignore discomfort. One ultra runner tee shirt I once saw stated, “The whippings will continue until the morale improves.”  
I had angioplasty, which is considered the gold standard for determining heart problems and blood perfusion. What it amounts to is that I have an inadequate supply of blood to the heart muscle. The cardiologist inserted two stents and said that it would help but also said there were issues he could not solve. Even bypass surgery would not help. I would have to limit my exercise, keep my maximum heart rate down and take the usual protocol of medications. This included statin drugs to reduce cholesterol, beta-blockers, to reduce blood pressure, and a drug to thin the blood plus one 81mg aspirin per day.
This heart condition will limit my exercise and lifestyle, erode my malignant pride and eliminate one more facet of my life that I have used to define myself. I have lots to ruminate about but I know one thing. This fitness god I served for so many years was, in the end, a false god that massaged an ego bloated by pride. Was it focus or obsession? It was probably both and served a personality that needed rituals to calm the anxieties of life.
While this has been difficult to adjust to and accept, I know that as a Christian, I cannot serve two masters.
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:20-21, KJV)          

Monday, December 26, 2016

My Newest Book Will Be Available Soon: The Best Of Mid Sierra Musings

Dale Matson

Click On Photograph To Enlarge


This is my second book based on articles from my Mid Sierra Musings Blog. What is different about this book is that I selected the topics based on ‘page views’ over the last three years. The more page views an article received, the more likely I would select that article for inclusion in the book. I don’t believe I have selected any articles previously published in the first book.
I have come to think of myself as a wilderness docent who enjoys helping others who are considering some of the more popular trails in the Central Sierra Nevada. Some trips are day trips, some overnight and some multiday. Almost all of the trips are ‘on trail’.
I have seen how powerful photographs of an area can be in determining someone’s destination and have become an avid photographer at the expense of moving faster and covering more territory. It is good for me to do this as a retired trail runner.
I hope the information and photographs contained here will motivate you to see the areas yourself.
Dale Matson+


Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
Balsam Forebay
Big Pine Lakes Basin
Bighorn Sheep And White Mountain Peak
Courtright To Red Mountain Basin
Crowley Lake CA Views And The Columns
Day Hike On The Rock Creek Trail
Day Hike To Alta Peak
Day Hike To Devil’s Bathtub
Day Hike To Lamarck Lakes
Day Hike To Mt. Givens From White Bark
Edison Lake Loop Hike
Florence Lake To McClure Meadow And Back
Glacier Point Road In Yosemite National Park
Hike To Nellie Lake
Hike To Potter Pass And Twin Lakes
Hiking Mt. Whitney Part II Multi Day
Kaiser Peak Hike
Mammoth Mtn. CA Area
Mono Lake
Mt. Whitney Day Hike
Over Mono Pass From The Mosquito Flat
Overnight Hike To Center Basin
Overnight Hike: East And Reflection Lakes
Overnight In Dusy Basin From South Lake
Pear And Moose Lakes Sequoia Park
Robinson Lake
Sabrina Basin
Highway 395
Views Around Millerton Lake
Yosemite: Day Hike To Ostrander Lake
Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Close Up

Note: The book is now available as a Kindle Book (color photographs) and as a paperback (black and white photographs)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Bishop’s Note: December 22, 2016 – Immanuel & Jesus

Bishop Eric Menees

“…behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”
(Matthew 1:20-25 ESV)

 This Sunday we will celebrate the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Scripture attributes many names and titles to Jesus. But as we heard last Sunday from the 1st Chapter of Matthew, there are two primary names: Immanuel and Jesus.

Immanuel, which means “God with us,” was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy and an accurate descriptor of what had taken place in the person of Jesus. St. Paul states it perfectly: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:5-7)

At the annunciation the Angel tells Joseph exactly what the name Jesus means: “God Saves.” And that is exactly what Jesus – God incarnate – does! He saves us by Faith, through Grace.  Jesus received the wrath of God on the cross in order to save us from the due punishment for our sins.

Ultimately this is all a mystery of Love that Christmas catches so beautifully in the hymns that we will sing…

Joy to the world! The Lord is come: let earth receive her King: let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing…

God rest you merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay; remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day, to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray...

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be, he is Alpha and Omega, he the source, the ending he, of the things are, that have been, and that future years shall see, evermore and evermore.

May this mystery, grandeur, joy, and love be yours this Christmas!

Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

VII. Of the Old Testament

 The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.

Friday, December 16, 2016

My New E-Book Of Sierra Nevada Photographs

Fr. Dale Matson

E-Book Available @ $5.00

Introduction (from the book)

“Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?” In Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus is referring to the face of Helen Of Troy. In Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy Of Needs” the search for beauty was included as an important need. Although we are caught up daily in the security and safety needs, we also enjoy beauty.
Beauty can motivate us to leave the safety of our homes. Beauty is a Siren call to adventure, to risk far beyond the comforts of home.
I can see the Central Sierra Nevada from where I live in Fresno California. Before I was born Theodore Solomons stood near Fresno also and envisioned a trail that would follow along the Sierra Crest. This dream was realized and finalized as the 211-mile John Muir Trail between Yosemite Valley and Mount Whitney. John Muir famously stated, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”
  The Spirit drives many of us, like Jesus, into the wilderness. For Muir, whose father was a pastor, the wilderness was like a great temple where he went to worship. The Central Sierra Nevada is like a Beethoven masterpiece. It is variations on a central theme. The central theme is a canvas composed of firmament, rocks, water, flora and fauna.
The canvas is ever changing and this observer is ever learning. The more I learn, the more I appreciate what it takes to capture an accurate rendering at an optimum time. I have learned some geology, location names, wildlife habits and habitat. The “golden hours” where the light is best, dictate wilderness permits and overnights. Much of my photography has required multiple nights and days of backpacking to find the places I have sought. It is the many faces of ‘Helen’ I seek in the mountains.
My camera gear while essentially lightweight is burdensome for me. The weight of my backpack and gear slow down this former trail runner. But it is the taking of photographs that has redefined my purpose of being on these mountain trails. I admire Galen Rowell who was a wonderful mountain photographer. He could run the trails and climb the granite walls with his camera in a chest pouch. He knew the Eastern Sierra intimately.  Knowing the location before you go there for photographs is important. Knowing what lenses you will need is essential. The morning light is the best in the eastern slopes and the afternoon light is the best on the western slopes. Sometimes, stormy skies are ‘game changers’ where a mid day shot can be terrific.
How faithfully do my photographs represent what I have seen? I am happy for one or two photographs from each trip to trigger the best memories from when I was there although my memories of Baxter Pass were not as pleasant as the photograph.
I have published these photographs in an “EBook” version because the quality and color are best suited to a EBook. Additionally, as they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” And it is the photographs of the beautiful Sierra Nevada taken over many years and hundreds of miles of trails that I want to share with you. Hopefully, one or more of these photographs will serve as a motivating force to send you into the Sierra Nevada Mountains.