Droughts, Abundant Rain, & Being

Droughts, Abundant Rain, & Being
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Dry Bones (September 2012). Photo by Tim Graves Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0

Awhile back, I was inspired by the abundant life still present in the parched late summer at the Tom McCall Preserve near Rowena, Oregon. The dry conditions were not unusual that year. I confess the sound of the hot wind blowing through the dry grass and crinkling leaves brings me peace when I hike there in the summer months.

Instead of the Columbia River Gorge’s hot breath, I experienced its bitter winds on my early February hike. There was no crunching to be heard, only the sloshing sound of my  (thankfully!) waterproof hiking boots on the muddy and floody trail. There was subtle beauty in the winter moisture just as there was in late summer.

Last fall, much of this area was under a drought emergency. Mt. Hood was rapidly losing its snowcap. Areas I hiked in July had the same lack of snow that is typical of late September. This winter we’ve been blessed by moisture falling as rain at the lower elevations and snow in the mountains.

Certainly we need to be concerned about climate change; we should be taking more drastic actions than we have been taking. Nonetheless, spiritually we  need to remember that the very nature of existence is change. What is now, will not last forever. Droughts become an abundant winter of snow and rain.

Writes Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön, “Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality.” I confess that I’ve recently been in a funk. I’ve been struggling with the wilderness, the “no-man’s-land” as Chödrön refers to it, on and off for some time.

The result of course is I’ve been out of harmony with reality. By allowing myself to resist and struggle against the impermenance, failing to be in the present, I allow myself to be out of sync with the joy, the contentment — the divinity — within myself and others. So, I confess my sin and pledge to continue the wandering, the learning to be. 

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Below are photos of the moisture from my recent trek through McCall Preserve. The image that looks like a small stream? That’s the trail.

I Am the Gate: An Ash Wednesday Reflection

I Am the Gate: An Ash Wednesday Reflection
I Am the Gate. Photo by Tim Graves.
I Am the Gate. Photo by Tim Graves.

By the sweat of your face you will eat bread—until you return to the fertile land, since from it you were taken;  you are soil, to the soil you will return.” (Genesis 3:19 CEB)

On Ash Wednesday we recognize our human mortality. But sometimes we say ashes to ashes and dust to dust (or in this case soil to soil) to imply that we are dirt, that we are worthless. When we say that we came from dust and return to dust what we are really implying is that we are interconnected with the earth beneath our very feet.

We are part of the wholeness that God creates. To suggest that we are dust is to suggest that even the dust is worthy of the love of God. We are integrated into creation not separate from it.

***

Sin. We also focus on sin on Ash Wednesday but I think we misunderstand. We think of sin as something we’ve done wrong when sin is by definition not a mistake but a separateness from God. And so in this passage from John, Jesus offers us a way out of sin.

He is more than the image of the shepherd who cares for us and gives us personal salvation, though he is all that for Christians. Jesus is the signpost pointing us toward the One who loves ALL people, the One who loves each of you.

So Jesus spoke again, “I assure you that I am the gate of the sheep. (John 10:7 CEB)

Jesus is the gate. For his followers Jesus is the opening through the 12-foot concrete fence topped with barbed wire that we have constructed to separate ourselves from God. Jesus is the gate which swings wide so that we can find green grass and abundant, life-giving streams.

And, so, because Jesus points us toward God we do not have to sin. The promise of the shepherd means that we do not have to be distant from the One who loves.

Amen.