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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
a haiku for these images:
what really matters-
not my own power,prestige
But God’s constant love
The psalmist talks about our prayers, not just an occasional one but many. These prayers acknowledge and draw upon God’s unfailing love. And His mercy is not just plentiful, it is “so” plentiful; just as it should be with an infinite and eternal God!