The Waters of Zion







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?

Faith




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.”

Oswald Chambers continues this deep look at faith by calling us never to lose
our sense of wonder at God’s creation.

Our spring break with Jasmine and Marshal






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.

God’s grace illumines like the dawn



We have all experienced a sleepless night, where worrisome thoughts take over our minds. Of course, we rarely, if ever, come up with solutions. And the sunrise is always remarkable. A new day begins, and so do we. Our minds and bodies may not be as fresh as we want them to be, but our souls embrace the light.

These two pictures were taken on the way up to Anthony Lakes, our local ski area. My last post was of sunsets. Sunrises are even better, because a whole new day stretches out before us, with all kinds of unknown opportunities.

Cloud Forest sunset





I have been blessed to travel to Vilcabamba for five years on medical/dental mission projects with GHO. We stay at Izhcayluma, a hotel above the town that looks over and up to the cloud forest of Podocarpus National Park. Normally the forest is indeed clouded over. This year, however, the rains were late, and we enjoyed a fantastic display of light at one evening’s sunset.

Whether or not one believes in a Creator, scenes like these are a reminder of the infinitude of nature and the universe in which we live, breathe, and have our being. We breathe the same air that our long distant ancestors did, and we are irretrievably linked to past, present, and future with each other.

Replenishing at the Source



We intuitively know that kindness and love, toward others and ourselves, is the key to spiritual and emotional well being. Yet people–spouses, family, friends, the “world” — are so demanding and draining. God, however, is infinite and eternal. His love is a well, a spring, a river that never runs dry. As Christ tells us, when we drink of His waters, we are never thirsty. “Come, let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.” Revelation 22:17. Drink FREELY. What a wonderful invitation, fulfilling what was written so long ago in Isaiah 55.

The pursuit of truth and beauty



“The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.”
Albert Einstein

We all carry baggage and brokenness of one sort or another. Yet through love and forgiveness, recovery is possible. We can regain a childlike wonder. As children of God, given His original blessing, our lives are unique and beautiful. Whether we or society see this beauty is incidental to its existence–our Creator sees it.

And we too can see beauty in obscure and forlorn places. The purple flower was growing in a back alley of La Grande against the peeling paint of an abandoned garage. And the yellow hibiscus, growing above and beyond the barbed wire fence, bringing beauty to a dusty street yard, found sustenance in Catamayo, Ecuador.

If you are inclined, check my web site at www.praisephotography.com and click on Alleys of La Grande to see similar pictures.



I arrived home early yesterday afternoon. My flight from Houston was delayed, so I did not arrive at my Portland motel until late Saturday night. Since I had gotten up at 4:00AM in Quito,my day was a 22 hour one. So, I am catching up on my sleep, and will need some time to process the experience, I but I am deeply amazed and lifted up by the quality of the group and the way personalities merged together under the common purpose to share God’s love as His hands, feet, and voices.
Over forty people joined us, from ages in the twenties to one doctor who celebrated his 80th birthday last night in Quito at our farewell dinner overlooking the lights of the city. The group included a number of dedicated Ecuadorian translators. We had two surgeons, a nurse anethesist, two ob-gyn’s, three family docs, a pediatrician, two nurses, and four pharmacists, two of whom were bi lingual, as was one of the surgeons. The intensity of the work was incredible–long lines of people and long hours, but the happiness and the gratitude of the patients was, as with past trips, always awesome. I spent a good deal of time working with reading glasses–exhaustingly intense but good.
WARNING: what follows is explicitly religious, so just skip to the pictures if you want.
While sitting in Houston at the waiting area of my Portland departure gate, I saw a poster for Continental Airlines. It set out an impressive statement:
“There are industry standards. Thankfully, we have our own.”
Traveling and serving with Global Health Outreach, the mission arm of the Christian Medical Dental Association, our time with the people of Ecuador is more than the “industry standard” of good thoughts/good deeds. As we pray with and for patients, as we share morning devotions and life journeys, we know we are the branches of Christ’s vine. We are His hands, feet, and voice.The pills run out, the bodily aches and pains return, but the love, forgiveness, grace, hope, joy, and salvation of Jesus Christ is eternal.
More pictures will follow as I readjust at home, but these two images of the people and the scenery reflect the profound intensity of our trip. Blessings, Eric

Photos by Eric Valentine