I write this as I prepare to depart from Lake Guntersville, Alabama. Overcrowded conditions and too much unexpected risk changed my comfort with staying here. What is next?
The pandemic limits opportunities to meet people and to get to know them and be a friend. For now, I call or text people I know who may be alone and in need of some human contact, even from afar. Through social media, I try to reach out and share the great beauty and peace that can be found always thanks to God’s creativity and generosity.
Less reporting and more reflection seems to be the way it goes for the foreseeable future. Although I must temporarily stop my visits to shrines and religious sites, and circumscribe my volunteer work, life goes on. As I walk the many trails around the park, here’s what comes to mind to share with you.
The unnecessary beauty of creation calls to our hearts and invites us into its peace to listen. What is God, the Creator, the Universe saying to you? Ask Him. Look for answers in stillness and the silence of your heart. Like many others, I find that conversation or prayer in nature. It is there — and in front of the Blessed Sacrament in church — that God speaks most clearly to me. Or, perhaps, that is where I listen most attentively.
I’m still a pilgrim! We are all on a journey, a pilgrimage, with purpose, even if we don’t perceive the whole. God has all of this – the pandemic, unemployment, suffering, and joy — in His plans. We just don’t know those plans. He doesn’t create suffering, but he turns it to good. The frustration of not understanding through reason is transcended by trust in faith. If you are not religious or spiritual, this seems trite and circular. Yet, what will satisfy your search for answers, your unspoken yearning for happiness?
Like cavemen trying to comprehend physics, religion to the modern person may seem like magic, incomprehensible, contrary to science and logic. Yet, science and religion are not at odds – God created the rules of science, the laws of nature, the structure of the universe. Scientific inquiry itself requires hypotheses and leaps of faith.
Still, faith transcends what we can observe with our physical senses. Faith tells us that God loves us, His plans for you are good, and that you are free to participate in them, to choose good. We are not slaves nor is our fate predetermined. He seeks us out as friends, brothers and sisters, children and spouses, not as possessions but as gifts we chose to make of ourselves to Him, as He has given Himself to us.
Thus, faith and reason complete each other, not compete with each other. I can reason that my stay at the Lake in prudent recognition of risks needs to end, and trust God to let me know what is next to best serve Him.
As I write this little reflection, I embrace the chance to expand my blog a bit beyond writing about literal travel. Fortunately, I have many notes and photos of places already visited as the raw material of more posts, so the focus of the blog will remain on travel.
Likewise, I’ll still offer my friendship and volunteer where possible. Until circumstances change with COVID, I’ll pray more and communicate more by social media, email and calls. Friendship does not always require in-person contact. Writing more about my inmost thoughts is a risk worth taking if it helps a fellow searcher, another wandering pilgrim. Feel free to share your thoughts with me by contacting me through the blog.
I’ll also experiment with more videos. Here’s one from a recent hike. May the beauty and the intricate design of the natural world inspire you to accept God’s gifts and trust in His plans for you!