I have lived in the Southwestern USA for nearly all my life (all except the first five years)! I grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada from the age of 5 to 18. I moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1984 and remained there through my undergraduate schooling and the establishment of my family.
We then spent a year in Mill Valley, California (yes, I know, that’s Northern California) while I completed by masters degree.
We moved my final year of seminary to Southern California and spent a little over 10 years in Upland and then, in 2003, moved to Casa Grande, AZ where I continue to reside.
Needless to say, I am very familiar with the desert — living there and driving through. Because I am no stranger to little rain (less than 4″ per year in Vegas), to extreme heat (hitting 122 degrees in Phoenix on a couple of occasions), and wind and fire (the Santa Ana’s and mountain fires in So. California), I am really aware of the dangers and the beauty of the desert.
First, the dangers:
- Water…Water….Water: Authorities tell you to travel with water in case you break down because nothing is more dangerous than being in the dry heat without life giving and sustaining water.
- Dust Storms: Wind across the desert can create dust storms that will rival any snow storm the East could come up with. They blind drivers, damage roofs, leave a trail of sand everywhere, create stinging conditions on the face and skin and have often ended in traffic fatalities.
- Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke: when the body is exposed to extreme heat, the risk of becoming physically overheated is high and one must exercise caution. They say it is a dry heat — just like an oven, and you don’t want to be spending much time there!
But with the risks of the desert, there is also a beauty that many people rarely slow down enough to see:
- Unique Beauty: While the desert receives little rain, there is vegetation and plant life galore in the desert and each of the varieties possesses a beauty all of its own. In the spring, there is color abundant — if you are not driving down the road at 75 miles per hour.
- Sunsets: There is nothing that can compare to an Arizona sunset. Yes, I’ve watched the sun go down over the ocean and in the mountains but nothing compares to the vivid colors painted across the canvas of the sky in the evening (and in sunrise in the mornings, too!).
- Thunder and Dust Storms: When you stand, looking into the horizon and see a wall of dust roll in during the monsoon season in the southwest, it takes your breath away. To hear the thunder roll and rattle the windows and see the wall of dust coming, it makes you aware of the power of nature around us.
- Wildlife: There are many dangerous creatures that inhabit the desert but they are also some of God’s most beautiful creations. I love lying in bed at night and hearing the howl of the coyote, watching the roadrunners dash across the roads or the cotton tails scurry across your path. Yes, even snakes possess their own beauty (though I am really afraid of them!).
I have discovered in my ministry and in my own personal experience with God, that my spirituality is much like the desert. It has great risks and can sometimes look bleak and dry and desolate.
But I have also learned that if I slow down to take in the experience of God in life, there is so much beauty to behold. I believe that even in the dry and desolate seasons of life, we can experience grace and mercy from God. This was true of the heroes of Scripture and I am convinced it is still true today.
So welcome to the Desert…may you experience grace as you travel in the way!