Desert Meditations on a Mountain Bike: Lenten Devotions
Tuesday, April 19
Imagine if Moses, Abraham, Jesus, and the prophets had lived in the northern forests of Scandinavia, the jungles of the Amazon, or the Himalayas instead of the mostly desert areas of the Middle East and North Africa? The imagery and the settings in scripture might have been much different.
But the desert is the backdrop of scripture, and God uses that environment to speak to us. There is a simplicity in the desert environment that gives us the clearest example of an emptiness where God speaks. The desert is a brown or reddish brown canvas; a place with few distractions where we can hear the voice of our Creator more clearly.
And God rewards our attention. The prophet Isaiah talks about the blessings that God provides in the desert in Isaiah 41:17-18; Isaiah 44:3-4; and Isaiah 35:2.
My home of Albuquerque is one of a handful of places in our country where we can have a desert experience in the city limits. On Saturday before Holy Week, I set out prayerfully on my mountain bike for a ride through the desert foothills of the Sandia Mountains. My purpose was to listen to as many messages as I could from our Creator.
Here are some random thoughts.
Presence, not endurance. There is a very steep, sandy hill with a couple of curves on the bike path that I haven't mastered. I often avoid it, and instead go the long way through a paved road where I can get more traction. I decided to tackle it this time, and sure enough, I had to dismount and roll the bike uphill. My first thought was that endurance and personal strength should not be the guiding principle for my presence in the desert, but the experience of being there. In fact, having to dismount made me stop and walk and slow down.
The voice of God. As I reached an area on the bike path with several brush plants, I heard a joyful chattering. I am no zoologist, so I couldn't say whether it was a mammal or a bird. That minute my thought was, "Thank you, God, for speaking to me."
The dry creek bed. Albuquerque doesn’t get a lot of rain during the winter months and early spring. This year, we have suffered from El Niño, so conditions have been drier than usual. As I came to a dry bed that normally handles water runoff, I thought of the words of Isaiah 41:17-18 and my work as a Bread for the World volunteer. "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them. I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water." (New Revised Standard Version)
Carlos Navarro is volunteer state coordinator for Bread for the World in New Mexico, and a Bread board member.
Photo courtesy of Carlos Navarro.
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