Advent 2: Of The Roses Singing

Isaiah 40:1-11The Second Sunday of Advent – for Sunday, December 7, 2014

“A voice is crying out: Clear the Lord’s way in the desert! Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3)

two+candlesA voice is crying out:
Clear the Lord’s way in the desert!
Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!

Some say, fervent and sure in their beliefs, that Isaiah predicted a voice in the future: a John the baptizer that would cry aloud in the literal wilderness, a harbinger for Jesus’ ministry.

Some say, fervent and sure in their beliefs, that Isaiah was not predicting a some-day future of John and Jesus, but shouting an every-day truth in the metaphoric wilderness: a longing for God to transform a wounded world.

Either way, when modern hearts and minds read Isaiah’s ancient cries, there is a belief that from the wild, from beyond our safe homes and familiar streets, a change will come.

American poet, Mary Oliver penned,

Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable.

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds, until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing.

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.

The second Sunday of Advent has arrived. Come walk with me into the woods, in the wilderness of yesterday’s Isaiah and today’s faith . . . but only if you are not one of the “smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable.” Continue reading →

Returning to the Old New…Mountain Lessons

Photo on 10-10-13 at 6.35 PMI had been there before; I hardly recognized it.

Isn’t it said that a river is never the same? Each time you dangle your foot in a river, the river has changed. Yes, it’s in the same location, with the same name on the map, and even from the same source. But the water flows on and each splash in the river is really new. Water keeps flowing; life keeps on going.

Where I had been before was not a river, but a lake. Ireland Lake. I hardly recognized it.

A few years ago, in the week that summer turned to fall, a friend and I backpacked into the alpine world above Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows area. Most of the time we were above 10,000 feet, where autumn’s subtle colors of gold and red had overtaken summer’s lush array of green meadows and audacious rainbow-inspired wildflowers.

In the days on the trail, we had rain, hail, sleet and snow. In the Sierra, summer can be long. But the time of autumn is short. Winter is impatient.

At the mid-point of the trip we climbed to 10,700 feet, at a place on a map that said Ireland Lake.

It was also a place of memory for me.

A lot more than a few years before (closer to three decades before!) I’d led a group of youth from a church to this place. We’d hiked there, teenagers and adults, weary from the trail. We stayed at Ireland Lake for two days.

Now I was back. Same trail. Same lake.

Hardly anything looked the same. How could that be? Continue reading →

G is for . . .


Early evening, Royal Arch Lake - southern Yosemite

Alpenglow is the dance of sunlight on stone in a mountain amphitheater.

Faces glow too; inward light. Moses, after his encounters with God, covered his face. The Israelites, already witnesses to great miracles according to scripture, couldn’t handle Moses’ blazing cheeks. In Jesus’ transfiguration, he shimmers, incandescent with glory. Were those fiery moments sacred history or sacred myth? I don’t care, for I’ve seen the hints of God at work within and around, where the light that is present—in a child’s smile, an adult’s words of forgiveness, a couple’s announcement of love—cannot be described or quantified. It simply is.

In the mountains, I witness rock afire. In scripture I read of transfiguration. But the light of glory happens here and about. And we, so adept at guarding our heart and hiding our fears, should and can struggle to keep our eyes open. Light abounds. A divine glow illuminates the soul…in ongoing creation, within each beloved creature.