The Clarity of the Desert

I went on a glorious hike in the desert last week. It was particularly wonderful to have gone from the frozen tundra of Minnesota into temperatures worthy of wearing a tank top. It's easy to take the warmth of the sun for granted until it is gone for several months.

Desert landscapes fascinate me. The cacti and flowers, rocks and dirt, all look so different than the flora and ground of the north. My eyes darted from place to place as I walked around the mountain, noticing the distinct beauty of that part of the country.

I couldn't help but notice something else was different to. Not on the ground, but in the sky.  

The sky was a deeper shade of blue in the desert. 

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Why is the sky blue? 

It turns out the answer to this oft asked question of children is "because of the air molecules."

Light comes to earth from the sun in a full spectrum of colors. But on its way down, it hits air molecules. Many colors of light make their way through, their wavelengths unaffected by the interference. But light on the blue end of the spectrum is affected; it bounces off the air molecules and fills our sky with its hue.

Unless the air is filled with aerosols. Aerosols are particles of dust, salt, pollution, or water that are also floating in the air. They interfere with the full spectrum of light, bouncing all the colors around, making the sky appear less blue to our eyes. 

The desert sky has an unusual clarity. It is dry, so water aerosols are absent. It is away from the ocean, so salt aerosols are absent. It is away from human populations, so pollution aerosols are absent. And besides the occasional dust storm, the dirt pretty much stays on the ground. 

In the desert, the air molecules are free to bounce blue light without interference, and bring an unusual depth of cobalt clarity before our eyes.

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When we use deserts as a metaphor in our spiritual lives, we often use it to describe times that feel like punishment. Deserts are places where we feel parched, where sustenance is hard to come by, and where familiar land feels far away.

The problem with that view of deserts is it only looks at the dry, cracked ground. When we are in the desert, we need to look up.

In the desert, away from interference, God's light can shine through with unmatched clarity and depth. We can begin to see the world in new ways, and carry a vision into the future that we would not have seen if we hadn't passed through the wilderness.

In Hebrew, the word for wilderness, or desert, is "midbar," which comes from the root, "dabar." Dabar means "to speak." 

It's true the desert is a difficult place, but it is also a place in which God speaks.  

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In many ways, the last few months have been a desert journey for me. I had felt called to leave my job at the end of December, but did not yet know what I was supposed to do next. Though there were some wonderful days, and some ordinary moments, there were also many hours spent processing, flailing, wandering, and grieving.

It was hard, but it was also good.  

In the desert, my vision changed. I saw a path I don't think I would have seen if I did not journey through the desert on my way to it. 

I am venturing out as an independent teacher, leading others to experience the richness that is possible when a small community of people gather around the Scriptures and leave space for the Spirit of God to speak. It is a way of teaching that is guiding more than speaking, questioning more than telling, and relational more than directional. It is a beautiful way forward full of potential, but also full of unknowns.

In the desert, I have learned that unknowns are okay. The cracked ground and blue sky live side-by-side, God bringing light and life in the midst of both.

In the desert, don't just look down at the dry cracked ground, remember to look up at the deep blue sky.

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If you are local to the Minneapolis area, would you consider joining me for my next study? I am also available to journey to you for retreats or small groups if you are interested. In either case, I would love your prayers, mainly that I would keep trusting God and taking the next step, even if I don't know exactly where the path is leading.  

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Blooming in Hope when the World is Cold and Dark

 Christmas Cactus

----- Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. –Luke 1:78-79

In his name the nations will put their hope. –Matthew 12:21

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. –Romans 15:13 -----

The winter can easily bring on a feeling of hopeless. The daily grind of it all becomes too much to handle: the boots and hats, the bad roads and longer commutes, the frozen nostrils and numb fingertips. And at this time of year, the sun that goes down at 4:30 in the afternoon.

I love the symbolism of a Christmas cactus. It blooms when we most need that reminder of life. In its flowers we see that though the sun is not shining much, it is still shining enough to bring life. It reminds us that one day, that sun will shine warm enough and bright enough to melt the ice and bring to bloom the plants lying dormant under the frozen ground.

It is a symbol of hope.

Christ’s light is not simply a flicker or a glow or an aura; He is the rising sun. He is the source of life and warmth.

We bloom in Christ’s light as the Christmas cactus, a sign to others that His light brings life, and will one day will rid the cold and darkness from the earth.

The light of Christ is our hope. And through the Holy Spirit, we can be the symbol of that hope to others. ----- God of hope, shine the light and warmth of Christ into our lives. Remind us of the life He has given us. May our lives beam with the beauty of Christ, so that we may rest in Him and others may find their way to His hope. Amen. ----- In the Bleak Midwinter – Jars of Clay

“Shepherds fear the blinding light Haste to understand In the bleak midwinter Peace for child, for man.”

 


NoticingImmanuel

Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.

We Notice Light When We are in the Darkness

light

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The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. –Isaiah 9:2

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” –John 8:12

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I accidentally left my Christmas lights on all day yesterday. I didn’t notice it for awhile because the light wasn’t obvious. Those little LED bulbs got lost in the ocean of daylight. It is in the dark blanket of the night sky that those small Christmas lights become tiny beacons of beauty. (Especially in Minnesota, when it’s dark so dang much of the day.)

It seems we notice Jesus the most when we are in touch with our darkness. His light is the flickering splendor of hope in the cold black night of winter.

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O Great Light of the world, come into our darkness now as you did then. Show us beauty when we see nothing but emptiness. Show us the way home when we are stumbling and can’t find our way. Shine like a beacon of beauty and hope, into our lives and into the world. Amen.

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Light of the World- Lauren Daigle

“Can you hear the Angels singing? Glory, to the Light of the World.”

 


NoticingImmanuel

Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.