Sunday, April 20, 2014

Life Endures

"Easter Sunday, 2014"
-At the Desert Retreat House-

This morning, I was awakened by the sound of tiny high-pitched chirps coming from just outside my bedroom window. The song birds had built a nest in the eaves of the roof, and the eggs hatched overnight. What a wonderful way to greet an Easter Sunday morning - listening to the sounds of newborn chicks.

Years before we moved out here, we were driving through the desert on the way to a summer vacation. As we drove along the highway, I thought to myself, "Why on earth would anyone want to live out here?" It was so hot, dry, so dusty, so vast.  The mountains of stone, boulders and dry sage bushes - it all seemed dead - so inhospitable to life. 

But gradually, as I became more and more acquainted with this desert, that has now become my home,   I discovered that a rich abundance of life endures and even thrives in this fierce dry wilderness. In fact I have found that "life" out here is far richer, fuller and more beautiful than anything I have ever experienced before.

Maybe life seems fuller here because you don't expect to see such astounding beauty springing out of such absolute starkness. 

As I sit in my meditation garden, silently in awe at the rising of the sun on this Easter Sunday morning, I can still hear those little newborn chicks chirping in the background. I also wonder if somehow all the desert birds seem to know it's Easter morning because they all seem to have come out to play - hummingbirds and songbirds, wrens, doves and sparrows, all dancing around me, singing out their morning hymns, sipping at the flowing garden fountain.

The flowers, trees and bushes also seem to be participating in this festival of life today. I have never before seen so many varieties of flowers with such richness of color until I moved out into the desert. All the cacti are in bloom, wildflowers everywhere, my eyes can barely take in all the color- the rich blood-red, orange, ochres, yellow and gold, the fresh green palm trees swaying in the morning breeze, silhouetted against the purple-brown mountains in the distance. Even my fruit trees seem to be celebrating Easter today- all laden with blossoms - lime and lemon, grapefruit and fig.

There is a sweet smelling fragrance in the air this morning. It smells like life to me.

I once heard a story about a wise old bishop who was once asked if he really believed in the resurrection. This was actually a trick question - an inquiry about the orthodoxy of his theology. Did he "really" believe that on Easter Sunday the once-dead Jesus "really" came back to life?

The old bishop closed his eyes and thought about his response for a while, then he looked up and said,  "Do I believe in the resurrection? Of course I do. I've seen it too many times not to believe in it."

That's how I feel this morning.

The desert is a great teacher. The wilderness shows me that although our time on earth is harsh and fierce, although the wilderness through which we journey is rocky and thorny, "life" will always endure.  And in fact, the more fierce the wilderness, the more achingly beautiful will the life be that emerges from it.

The world is a place of beautiful struggle, and life is bittersweet. Our days are filled with violence hatred, war and oppression.  And yet in it all, every day people act with compassion, with kindness and they walk in love. And in the end, there's resurrection - life endures and love will ultimately win the day.

This is the Easter message and you don't have to be a Christian to celebrate resurrection.

Happy Easter!

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