July 7, 2011
I woke up a few mornings ago and walked outside of my quaint room in the Thunderbird Hotel, the place I am calling home this summer, and like every morning looked up at the sky. It was dark. For a brief moment I got really excited and thought maybe, just maybe, our prayers for rain would be answered today. New Mexico is one of the driest places I have ever been. It hasn’t rained since I got here..unless you count the brief snow we had back in May. Yeah, May. The dryness is a defining element of my new home. I can spill water on the ground and it will be gone before I have to avoid slipping in it. My skin could probably serve as an ash tray for a cigarette and it would be weird not to blow blood out of my nose every hour or so. I can no longer hydrate my body by inhaling like I can back at home in Georgia. That’s just the way it is.
However, even the New Mexican natives (in addition to the high population of native americans here) are beginning to shrivel up in the desert this summer. There’s just no water to be found. So, like any good Christians would do, we have been praying for rain and praying for it to come fast. And yes, I have been doing my African Rain Dance. I swear it will work, I just gotta keep dancing till it does.
I stopped dancing long enough to check the ominous clouds as I walked out of my room that morning and my excitement turned into concern. Last time I checked, clouds came down from the sky, not up from the earth. These clouds were definitely rising from the ground. They were also obscuring my view of the mountains enveloping Glorieta. The smoke had crept closer overnight. The thirsty climate has created the perfect atmosphere for a much more demanding threat: forest fires. They’ve been plaguing the western states surrounding us all summer and we’ve smelled the aftermath from miles and miles away. The red sky this morning gave us a warning-but I wasn’t so sure that it was a warning that any sailor would ever have to furrow his brow about.
So I resumed my mental rain dance and kept hoping that some clouds would roll down and battle the smoke that was hanging thick in the air as I went about my day. To say that I was thrilled about what was in store for that day would probably leave you with a sore leg, so I’ll go ahead and admit that I was working boats and hoping extra hard for rain in the hopes of blowing my whistle and closing up early that afternoon. But my hopes were futile and I kept my toes in the water, my oar in the sand, a thousand worries in the world, and a lukewarm camelbak in my hand. And then it started snowing. Snowing? Well, it wasn’t raining, that’s for sure. And something was definitely falling out of the sky. But if my cold-natured body was serving me well, the air was sitting comfortably in the 80’s. Hmm…the mystery element closely resembled the stuff that blew into my living room at home whenever a strong gust of wind blew down my fireplace..ash! I must have really messed up some of the steps of that rain dance I’d been practicing all week. That answered the question of the mystery clouds from the morning. Glorieta was sitting in a cloud of smoke.
We now know that the smoke is coming from fires surrounding Santa Fe. The National Park Service has closed down all of the forest surrounding the area, including our favorite hiking trails out of Glorieta. We are isolated in our little smoke covered campus.
We are thirsty. We are afraid.
Our prayers for rain have been answered with teasing rain clouds that sweep over us without a drop to spare us. They make us more thirsty as we stare at them in hopes of relief.
I’ve been thinking this week that the land is not the only one that is thirsty. I think that we often find ourselves in the desert, wandering aimlessly through our parched lives. Our souls become parched and infertile because our passion and purpose dries up. I have seen this happen so many times in my life and in the lives of those around me. It’s a sad sight, just like the sight of spilled water that evaporates off the concrete here. Everything we do is done in vain and produces no fruit, because it has nothing to grow from. We find ourselves at the mercy of others to keep us built up and living. And when it comes down to it, we just can’t be satisfied by others. The patch of grass outside of the dining hall here is watered for hours every single day. It’s beautiful, just like the grass back home in Georgia. But it is completely reliant on that constant supply of water from the sprinkler to grow. We can lean on and seek the support of others, but being solely sustained by them will leave us thirsty because even the best of friends can let us down and our souls need a constant stream of provision that cannot come from the people around us. A dry spirit does not grow. And that’s exactly what I was hoping for this summer: growth.
Growth is something that I seek to find in every situation and season of my life. My years are marked in the type and the amount of growth that I experienced that year. I hope this summer is no different and that the growth I can look back and see is abundant and fresh. Just like a patch of flowers after a rainstorm. I thirst for spiritual blossoms and the green of new life.
But I’ve been distracted this summer and like the ground here, I find myself in a desert. Sure, I’ve been growing and learning in several ways. I’ve gained skills working here that I would never learn (and probably never use) anywhere else. My body has gotten physically stronger and I’ve learned a thing or two about working with groups. I’m learning what it means to miss home and the people there and how to maintain relationships from a thousand miles away. I’ve also made new best friends here who have become my family for the summer. I think it’s safe to say that I have grown in my first half of the summer here. But this growth is like weeds compared to the growth I really want, the growth that I can only gain from God. I love dandelions. They’re pretty to me and fun to make wishes on, but they’re still weeds and weeds often prevent the desired produce from growing. I’m not satisfied with even the beautiful weeds I’ve been growing this summer and my heart thirsts for a garden of God’s wisdom, patience, godliness, and lessons learned through trial and persistence. I want to see the fruits of the Spirit nurtured and cultivated in my life.
The fires add a new urgency to our need and desire for rain here in Glorieta. Although they are not yet pressing us to evacuate, many surrounding areas have come to that and they are not far from us. The fires have already covered thousands of acres in New Mexico and are a constant threat to our camp. Even the slightest bit of rain could make a tremendous difference to the families that are having their homes destroyed and towns that are being shut down due to fire.
Dry land is dangerous. A dry spirit is equally dangerous. When we are not being filled and finding our provision from God, we are left open and vulnerable to destruction from fires that enter our lives. We cannot protect ourselves and trials can quickly burn us and those around us if we do not place our trust and faith in the Lord.
I have felt a dryness, but I have also developed a thirst this summer. Luckily, we’re only half way through and this dry heart is more than ready to be filled.
Did I mention that we had an awesome thunder storm yesterday? I danced in the rain for quite a while.
The sky is still cloudy and families were able to return to Los Alamos yesterday.
Sailors take warning 🙂
“Send some rain, would You send some rain?
‘Cause the earth is dry and needs to drink again
And the sun is high and we are sinking in the shade
Would You send a cloud, thunder long and loud?
Let the sky grow black and send some mercy down
Surely You can see that we are thirsty and afraid
But maybe not, not today
Maybe You’ll provide in other ways
And if that’s the case …
We’ll give thanks to You with gratitude
For lessons learned in how to thirst for You
How to bless the very sun that warms our face
If You never send us rain”