I struggled to keep my eyes on the freeway as I drove westbound. Across the Columbia River on the Washington side, I could see flames rapidly advance across the drought-parched grasses. That was a mere ten-days ago.
Because of diligent firefighters, the fast moving fire was fully contained within a week but not before over 4000 acres burned including a large portion of the familiar trails of Columbia Hills State Park.
As I traveled those trails yesterday, the smell of burn filled my nostrils. The monochromatic ground contrasted with singed trees. Familiar locations looked alien to my eyes. Were it not for the memories of the shape of the earth, of the scalded yet surviving trees, I would not have known this place.
Is it any wonder that dualistic thinking imagines a Hell filled with fire and its destruction? The wrath appears final. The color removed, life can seem hopeless after a fire.
But hopelessness and permanence are not the nature of the earth.
The Heaven versus Hell crowd fail to observe the world as it is. Creation reflects the energy, the creator, the divine spirit I call God. Creation and Creator are not binary or unchanging.
Quite the contrary, the burnt landscape I traversed yesterday will undergo a resurrection in the spring. If the Rowena Fire from last year is any indication, the resurrection will begin before the end of the year. (See The Lichen and Leaves of Hope.)
The nature of the One who connects all that is with all that is, the nature of the divinity within and between us all is not binary or dualistic at all. The nature of God is not about harsh judgement, angry retribution, Heaven and Hell, and certainly not about eternal damnation.
The nature of God and creation is about a path that begins at birth and continues through death to resurrection. This is the lesson of the Christian narrative of the life and teachings of Jesus — the biblical witness. Love overcomes even death. Love does not condemn creation or humanity to fiery Hell. It can’t; if it did it wouldn’t be love but hate.
It does not surprise me that our ancient kindred perceived mountaintops as the place where God resides. There is something mystical in the jutting face of mountains. There is something that calls to me when I am within sight of snowy peaks.
I often worry that I will drive off the road when in view of the snow-covered mountains of the Cascade Range, especially Oregon’s Mt. Hood. I struggle to keep my eyes on the road and off the divine curves of the rising rock..
Perhaps, the allure is stronger for me because, though I spent some of my childhood under its watchful gaze, most of my growing up years were in the mid-south and mid-west. Those regions of the country have much beauty but snow-capped peaks are not among them.
As I was hiking and climbing the rocks of Horsethief Butte in Washington state this morning, I tweeted that,
I always feel safe hiking and climbing when I know that Mt. Hood is watching over me. When I nearly lost my way, when anxiety began to well up while hiking Mt. Defiance late last summer, my mood changed once I glimpsed Hood. I immediately knew where I was. I was no longer lost; Mt. Hood was with me. This parallels the comfort and relief I feel when I perceive God is with me.
Climbing and hiking this morning, the craggy rocks demanded my attention. The flowers that graced cliff face and meadow alike beckoned me to remember that though my mountain god watches from afar, God is within all of creation. God is in the resurrecting flowers of spring. God is in the buzzing flies and the rattlesnake who calls Horsethief Butte home.
God is in the tiny lavender flowers and the purple mountain. God is within me, within you, and between all that is.
Send your light and truth— those will guide me!
Let them bring me to your holy mountain, to your dwelling place. Psalm 43:3 CEB