Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wild and Untamed

Fierce Beauty

Walking through a store the other day, I stopped dead in my tracks and stood in front of a table full of "clearance items" - 30% off all nativity sets.  Muzak was piping in strains of "Silent Night, Holy Night," and there they were - cheap little plastic figures of Mary and Joseph and the babe in a manger, all cleared to sell because no one wanted to buy them.

For me, that "clearance" table of nativity figures and piped in "Muzak" was a perfect "icon" of just how much "God," "faith" and "believing" have been cheapened, tamed and reduced nowadays (no wonder no one wants to buy).

Many religious people want to keep "God" safe. They want their religion to be controlled and comfortable - a baby in a crib,  a "man upstairs" who you go to visit for an hour once a week or so,  a few hymns and a prayer and then its's off into the real world. God, religion, church, faith - all safe, controllable and under control -cheap, plastic, uninspiring figures that you can put away when the season is over or when you get tired of looking at them. 

Yesterday I went walking in the desert and once again I realized just how much my desert home has influenced my own spiritual journey. 

Many people use the word "fierce" when they describe what the desert is like. Indeed it is a "fierce" place - vast and wild. You walk in the desert and there seems to be no boundaries - the desert floor seems endless, the cold-stone, towering mountains so formidable. It's almost unbearably hot in the summer, freezing cold on winter nights, and the basically unpredictable weather can change "on a dime." 

My "city" friends have often asked me why on earth we chose to move out here and live in a place like this desert? My answer is always the same: "It's the most beautiful and mystical place I have ever lived." It couldn't possibly be so beautiful if it weren't so fierce, so wild, so uncontrollable and so untamed. 

Every day the desert teaches me something about the Divine, Holy Presence, the all encompassing Universal Energy of Love, we call "God" - always abiding, beautiful and comforting but also fierce and wild. 

The fierce "God" I have met in the the desert is always pulling me out of my "ego," pulling me away from my need to control, pulling me into experiences of mystery that are too awesome for words. So all I can do is surrender to it all, and utter sounds of thanks. 

A friend of mine sent me a poem yesterday, titled "Sometimes a Wild God." It wonderfully captures the "God" I have met in the desert.

Sometimes a wild god comes to the table.
He is awkward and does not know the ways
of porcelain, of fork and mustard and silver.
His voice makes vinegar from wine.

When the wild god arrives at the door
You will probably fear him.
He reminds you of something dark 
That you might have dreamt.
Or the secret you do not wish to be shared.

You do not want to let him in.
You are very busy.
It is late, or early and besides….
You cannot look at him straight 
Because he makes you want to cry.

Oh limitless space, Oh eternal mystery.
Oh endless cycles of death and birth
Oh miracle of life.
Oh the wondrous dance of it all.

In these December days of Advent, no little plastic figurines for me - turn off the Muzak. 

I embrace the wildness and open my heart to the fierce beauty of it all.

My book on Amazon
"A Way in the Wilderness: Reflections of a Desert Pilgrim"

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