The predicted rain fizzled again. We’re used to it now. The internet says we are in for two days of rain and when it actually gets here we get a little misting on the windshield. But this is the Desert Southwest and we know how things are here. We’re used to the stubborn optimism of the weather prognosticators. Their promises are usually wishful thinking.
It’s easy to think about promises as an anchor in the future, but no one knows tomorrow. There are always valid reasons why things turned out as they did instead of how they were predicted. Promises are an event in the present, and their greatest use is in the present. What I really know now is that the weather forecasters wish me well today.
The Bible is full of divine promises. These are really no different. God wishes me well today. In the timelessness of divinity today is every day. The fulfillment is every or any time. Divine promises express the eternal divine will for the world.
Promises call for a certain surrender to what is rather than a domination of what might be. Our Buddhist friends might call this enlightenment–it certainly is enlightened. We Christians call it peace, and it certainly is peaceful. Maybe our Muslim friends have the right word: “Islam,” means “surrender.” The word is a derivative from which we also get the word, “peace.” (Nice!)
Another Maxwell Parrish horizon brightens a construction-paper-black silhouette of mountains against an even merge of orange to indigo. Only Cooke’s Peak is ashen rather than inky, set apart from the rest by the slightest hint of fog at her feet. She looks up and northward to the bright eye of Venus, and all is incredibly still. Peace seems automatic, looking out my window. My habit of sitting here every morning seems to automatically make peace rise in my soul.
It’s all in such stark contrast to the discussions about automatic weapons after last weekend’s tragedy in Las Vegas. I don’t know whether Paddock used truly automatic weapons bought on the black market or altered a semi-automatic weapon, but one thing is clear to me. Automatic weapons are not sporting goods. They have one purpose–to cause as much carnage to other humans as possible. They have no purpose on the hunt. They are only expensive to target-shoot with. Even the self-defense argument is overstated. Their only real purpose is war.
I wonder if Paddock ever stopped to watch the ghost of Max Parrish paint a sunrise? I wonder if in his high-stakes gamble on life he ever spent time letting the turmoil of the soul merge from passion to peace? If he had, might he have found inside whatever it was that would have kept him from careened so violently over the line?
I won’t wonder long, I’m still looking out my window. It is so much better an automatic option for the world.
Last night a gunman killed 50 people and wounded 400 in Las Vegas, NV. The New York Post listed it as the deadliest massacre in modern US history, eclipsing the 49 killed in Orlando, Florida last year. The sheriff called him a “lone wolf.” The President tweeted his condolences, as did many others around the nation, including the singer who was on stage at the time, Jason Aldean.
My sister told me about a dream she had the night before last. She never learned to sew very well, in spite of my mother’s best efforts to teach her. The sewing lessons were a source of endless irritation to my sister. My mother is now in heaven, and in the dream she was looking over my sister’s shoulder riding her for sewing something wrong. When my sister looked up at her Mom had an impish grin on her face, and walked away hand-in-hand with our father, laughing uproariously.
Maybe from the perspective of heaven the pain we inflict on one another has a different perspective. We could mourn it, and we ought to in this life. What happened in Las Vegas last night was beyond horrific, especially because it was so senseless. But when all is clear I think the upsets that send us into rages that hurt one another will appear as insignificant as they perhaps really are, way out of proportion to the pain we inflict because of them.
God give rest to the dead, comfort to the bereaved, peace to the troubled, wisdom and compassion to those who offer aid, and healing to the wounded. God alone will know what to do with Stephen Paddock; I suspect God will treat him from the perspective of heaven.
The meteorologists can really make enemies when they promise rain in the Southwest and it doesn’t happen. We were supposed to get pounded four days ago and it just fizzled. We always tell ourselves, “Well, we do live in a desert,” but there’s part of us that wishes the weather gurus knew what they were doing.
In reality, they know as much as they can. They are working with a plethora of different models that all predict different things. They average them out. They favor one over the other. They make an educated guess–and that’s all it ever really is. On top of that, precipitous climate change is making it harder and harder to do.
My friend and author, Steve Bodio, wrote a splendid book on eagles. He writes, “…they ask nothing but to go on their splendid old dinosaurian way, over our heads, in or out of our minds. They need us less than we need them.”* He argues eloquently that we DO need them more than we imagine, if for nothing else than to remind us that we live in a larger context with which we have only influence, not dominion.
Last night it rained over an inch and a half. Touché.
*Bodio, Stephen J. Eternity of Eagles: The Human History of the Most Fascinating Bird in the World. Rowman & Littlefield, 2012, 189.
The dawn rose as a tide of brightness this morning, evenly everywhere under a thick and cozy comforter of fog. It gave, like the turning of the sea-tide, an indeterminate beginning to the day. The light didn’t start, it just happened.
The quail took their time in bed before tippy-toeing through the wet grass to the feeder. They didn’t come charging in like the light brigade, they just appeared, just happened. The doves are still in bed. The hummingbirds, who usually spend their hard-earned calories chasing each other off, are sitting three-to-a-four-station-feeder, sucking down nectar quietly.
I sat this morning, quieting my mind, pushing all the causality out of it, trying to not try, to let deep awareness just happen. Like the dawn, it’s a cozy place to be, as cozy as the whole universe under the comforter of God.
We are so bent on making things happen. What would it be like if we spent more time just happening?
When I was a kid growing up in the tropical rainforest I often used to sing, “Rain, rain go away, come again another day, little Johnny wants to play.” In the rainy season it rained every day, and we got so we played in the rain rather than stay inside and be bored.
Last night’s forecast called for rain in the middle of the night extending through the day, bringing cooler-than-normal temperatures. We woke up a dry driveway. Now the internet says it won’t rain until this afternoon, and the chances are less than they predicted. It’s cold and overcast, but we are still disappointed.
We could ask ourselves why we are never satisfied, but there is a deeper question to ask. Of what are we dissatisfied? Yes, we are dissatisfied that it didn’t rain, but this is the desert Southwest. We always welcome rain. In the rainforest what’s 5 inches when you get 200 a year? Here 5 inches is a third to half of our total. We want health for the land and for ourselves. We want God’s deep shalom, the wellbeing of the world.
Augustine of Hippo says all our desires are ultimately for God. Maybe our dissatisfactions have a divine purpose.
The Mist and All, by Dixie Willson (To be read slowly and quietly)
I like the fall
The mist and all
I like the night owl’s lonely call
And wailing sound
Of wind around
I like the gray
And dead, bare boughs that coldly sway
Against my pane
I like the rain
I like to sit
And laugh at it
And tend my cozy fire a bit
I like the fall
The mist and all
Ok, fall in the southwest is not misty and rainy, but it is windy and the cool of the nights promises the cold of winter. And yes, there is a delightful sense of quiet defiance.