Obscure by Oregon geography standards, the Zumwalt Prairie in the extreme northeast corner of Oregon represents a wonderfully diverse ecological niche. As set out in the book, “The Prairie Keepers” by Marcy Houle, this area demonstrates how ranchers and grazing and wildlife “not only can coexist, but in some instances must coexist.” A single gravel road accesses these thousands and thousands of acres, where nature and silence have scarcely been disturbed from time immemorial. Whether one photographs, reads, or meditates, the silence makes its own music.
“We lost sight of our original union with God and the continuing call to be like God. In fact, we became so busy keeping out of hell that we forgot that we were on our way to heaven. We started loving God for the gifts we would receive or the punishment we would avoid.
“But is that truly love? What about the wonder and the possibility of being simply and utterly in love, the only reason being that once before a burning bush the One Who Is said, “I Am Who I Am.” The bush still burns. What about our love? How bright is our flame?” Macrina Wiederkehr, “A Tree Full of Angels”
“To walk with God is to be reassured of direction, guidance, and strength for our daily journey….This does not mean that we will be spared discouragement, disease, or death itself. It does mean that we never be alone. It means we will be given strength to meet the demands of our daily lives….It means that we will know the joy and tranquility of living in the presence of God in every circumstance of life. From fear to courage is the natural journey of all that walk with God.” Rueben Job
Spring brings out the wild turkeys as the males lure potential mates with vivid displays of tail and wing feathers and puffed out breasts. Generally the females seem indifferent. Yet to hear the males gobbling as day dawns, to see their iridescent heads and feathers, is an awesome experience. Unlike domestic turkeys who generally are satirized as being stupid, wild turkeys have acute hearing and vision. They are easily spooked, so positioning oneself for either photography or hunting must be done carefully. They can run up to 25 miles and hour and fly at speeds that approach 45 mph.
You may recall that Benjamin Franklin strongly backed the turkey as the national bird. It was a favorite food of native Americans, as well as the earlier settlers. However, their numbers plummeted over the centuries. They have been reintroduced into areas where their numbers were marginal, and planted in areas where they had not lived earlier. They are quite adaptable and are thriving across the mainland US, as well as Hawaii, and also New Zealand.
AW Tozer, in “The Pursuit of God,” vividly reminds us, “God is here and God is speaking. God did not write a book and send it by messenger to be read at a distance by unaided minds. He spoke a Book and lives in His spoken words, constantly speaking a His words and causing them to persist across the years.”
As we stood on the brink of the South Rim and looked out over the magnificence of the Grand Canyon, I was reminded of an observation by Albert Einstein. He is quoted quite frequently now, as a figure who offers a bridge between science and religion. He did not have a doctrinal or dogmatic view of God, but he did deeply appreciate the mystery and the miracle between what the mind can see and figure out, and what lies beyond human comprehension. To him, man was NOT the measure of all things.
“The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand in rapt awe, is as good as dead, snuffed out like a candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man.”
Harvey Cox takes this quote one step further: “Faith starts with awe. It begins with the mixture of wonder and fear all human beings feel toward the mystery that envelops us. But awe becomes faith only as it ascribes meaning to that mystery.” — “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him.”
Henri Nouwen writes, “Yet somehow I have to alert you to the truth that what this is all about (the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus) is the most fundamental, the most far reaching event ever to occur in the course of history. If you don’t see and feel that for yourself, then the gospel can be, at most, interesting; but it can never renew your heart and make you a reborn human being. And rebirth is what you are called to–a radical liberation that sets you free from the power of death and empowers you to love fearlessly.” from Letters to Marc about Jesus
In the spring, when the waterfalls flow off the red sandstone cliffs, Zion becomes a Yosemite in technicolor. This is desert country. Water brings life to this other wise harsh environment. Like air, water is vital for our survival. We also live in a challenging emotional environment of hurts and disappointments. Where do we find the living water for our spiritual survival–or do we care to look, or give up our search once it seems too overwhelming?
It is the beginning of Easter week. We go from the apparent triumph of Palm Sunday, though the darkness of death on the cross, to the what is the real triumph of Easter Sunday, life over death. I must admit how deeply superficial my life is when it comes to pain and darkness. I find it so easy just to give lip service to the darkness of this coming Thursday night and Friday, and the time until the empty tomb of Sunday. Christ overcame the darkness. Can I?Victor Frankl did. He was a Jewish Austrian psychiatrist who was sent to a Nazi concentration during World War II. He lost his wife and family. Yet he emerged in triumph, believing in God’s ultimate goodness. He describes this experience in the classic, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
Meg and I have just returned from a great trip to the canyon country of Utah and Arizona. We took Jasmine and Marshal, our Chinese students, to this magnificent country during Eastern Oregon University’s spring break. Although the first and last days were long drives, we enjoyed many stimulating conversations, as well as listening to Meg reading CS Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
We were blessed to have the time to spend three nights at the Grand Canyon. Monday we all hiked a couple miles down the South Kaibab trail to Cedar Ridge. Meg, Jasmine and I spend several hours enjoying the play of light and shadow, as well as watching four California condors riding the thermals. Marshal hiked on down to the river and Phantom Ranch. We had the good fortune of picking up a cancellation at the Ranch for him to stay overnight in the dorm.
Tuesday, I hiked down the Bright Angel trail, beyond Indian Gardens, where I met Marshal coming back up. He was powering his way back to the top, making it up there in a little more than three hours from the Ranch. I was much slower, but I made it to the rim in reasonable time for ten plus miles at age sixty seven. It is good to still have my “legs.”
We left Wednesday morning, enjoying lingering time at several viewpoints. We finished with Wednesday sunset and Thursday sunrise light at Bryce Canyon, and great late afternoon sun at Capitol Reef Thursday.
Marshal and Jasmine were great companions and the memories will remain with them, as with us, forever.