I miss our dogs Lucy and Obie. I miss the walks and hikes we used to take together. In fact that is the original reason for how I convinced Jon we needed a dog, so that we had a good reason to go for walks. With a dog a walk is really not an option, but a requirement. We would walk through our neighborhood. We would walk the trails following the old train tracks. We visited State Parks: Sleeping Bear National Park, Ludington State Park, Saugatuck State Park, Indiana Dunes State Park… One summer, probably 15 years ago, my sister Marsha and her family came to visit us. We decided to walk through the sand dunes at Warren Dunes State Park to get to Lake Michigan, a walk Jon and I had done many times before. Somehow we got off the trail. We weren’t lost; we knew where Lake Michigan was but it added much time to our journey. The walk through the hardwood forest with well-marked and well used trails is fairly easy going, but climbing the sand dunes is another matter. With the hot sun blazing down it is fun to climb the first sand dune, the sand slipping and sliding under your feet, the crunch and even lyrical singing of the sand as you step through the sand, the warm sand flowing through your sandals and filling your running shoes. By the third or fourth dune it is not so much fun; you are hot and thirsty and tired of the drag of sand on your every step. You reach the top of the dune and see the inviting waters of Lake Michigan, but also see the great blow out that lies before you, meaning another hike around and another climb. Marsha was sure I was out to kill her!
Life can be like a hike through the sand dunes. We can see the lake with the promise of the cool, refreshing waters. We might be able to even smell the water or hear the gentle rattle of the beach pebbles as they rock in the ebb and flow of the water, but we get distracted and waylaid by the ups and downs of life; illness, divorce, the birth and death of loved ones, the stress of leaving a well-loved home to move to a strange city for a new job and new opportunities.
Can you imagine what it was like for the Hebrew people to be invaded and told to pack up and move to another country with their children and their elderly? To have to walk through rough terrain that made a 500 mile journey closer to 1500 miles with your belongings on your back and those of your family, a five month journey, leaving behind your home, your land and your place of worship. The author of Isaiah gives the people the promise that even in this foreign land God is with them; he is not a god of the land, but the God of His people who journeys with them into the unknown. Isaiah holds out the hope that someday they will return to their homes. The people are comforted by the thought that God will straighten out the hills and the valleys of the wilderness and prepare a straight highway through the desert back to their homeland; that God is with them even in Babylon.
The Gospel according to Mark does not begin with genealogies and birth narratives as do Matthew and Luke. Mark does not begin with the beginning of time as does the Gospel according to John. Mark begins with the comforting words of Isaiah and the assurance that John the Baptist is like the great prophet Elijah and comes to prepare the way for the Messiah.
God is not slow in fulfilling his promises, but God travels with his people through the deserts of life waiting patiently for them to turn to him and to love him. The Bible is full of stories of God and his people; of war with the Israelite people as the aggressor and as the invaded; of sibling rivalry, rape, adultery, illness, murder; of hospitality, weddings, births and funerals; of floods, fierce storms, earthquakes, volcanoes and fire; and through it all God is with his people.
God is also with us in the deserts of our lives. We may not always be aware of his presence. We may even doubt he exists, but the good news is that God loves us and walks with us in the deserts of our lives. I cannot prove that God exists, but we can see God in the cosmic regeneration of the universe; in volcanoes and earthquakes; in the collision of heavenly objects and atoms. Talk to Kevin sometime about how chemists and physicists see God and the world. It is fascinating! Things that can’t and shouldn’t happen do happen. God is a fascinating mystery.
I cannot see the future, but in looking back over my life and back in history, I can see God at work. God leads us in paths that we would never have chosen. Trust that God is with us. Trust that even when we cannot see the path forward, God will lead us down the path to the future. Trust God to be with us when we take detours and fall off the trail. Believe that God is with us in the journey through the wilderness of life. Know that God walks with his people even today. Look for God as you go about your business. See God active in our lives. God is with us and loves us yesterday, today and tomorrow. God is in our midst. Amen!
Mother Darlene Kuhn
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