Friday, June 28, 2013

Kindness

120 degrees in the desert

It appears as if most of the country will be in the grip of a heat wave over the next few days. Here in the desert, the forecast is for temperatures to hover around 120 degrees - now, that's a heat wave.

Some of my friends (especially those living back East) ask me how we can possibly survive in the harshness of the summer desert heat.  Actually, I sort of like it when the temperatures get this hot. I relish all the ways in which we are able to find coolness and refreshment in the heat of the day.

I love to come out of the blistering temperatures into the coolness of an air-conditoned restaurant or store. And then there are the many fountains and misters bubbling out cool water and refreshing spray in every corner of the town. When it gets this hot, the pace seems to slow down and people are careful not to do anything too strenuous - most people sip water, lay low, gather together for an iced-tea at the local coffee house. I like it when it gets this hot. 

I have learned a great deal about life by living out here in the desert (especially in the summer heat).

Today as the temperatures soar, I am thinking about those 4th century Desert Mothers and Fathers- those little communities of Christ-followers who left church and society and fled out to the deserts to lead a simple, gentle life together by following the example of Jesus. They treated one another with compassion and deep respect. 

Today as temperatures soar out here in the desert, I think about my spiritual desert ancestors, living in the harshness of the heat. They treated one another with supreme kindness - and this kindness was like cool, refreshing, living water poured upon each other's thirsty spirits - gentle coolness in the heat.

One little story about these early desert Christians pretty much summarizes their lives together:

When the leader of the community (the Abba) was asked how he dealt with any brother who fell asleep during public prayer, he replied, "I put his head upon my knees and help him to rest."

In our own time, everyday life can often be pretty harsh and heated. We get consumed by the hectic pace. We live in a climate of performance, always expected to perform and produce according to what others expect of us; and we can be pretty harsh and judgmental when others don't perform in accordance with what we expect. Judgement and bickering are often themes underlying the course of our everyday living.

Today I learn a lesson from living in the desert heat. Today I learn a lesson from my early desert-dwelling monastic ancestors: in the midst of the  harshness and chaos of life, slow down, sip some water, be kind to one another, be gentle - be living water poured upon thirsty spirits. 

The temperature is soaring.

 Today I will relish the coolness in the midst of the heat. Today I will also try to "be" coolness in the midst of heat.  


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