Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Wildernesses [for Lent/Advent]

A message envelopes me,
Permeating my whole person:
The disembodied preaching,
The tones of a tameless, timeless wind,
Surge deep into my searching soul,
As if, "A voice of one crying:
'In the wilderness clear out the way of Yahweh;
Make straight in the desert plain
A highway for our God.'" (Isaiah 40:3)

Ridge follows ridge into the horizon,
Their shadows and mountain hues
Growing hazy, at last to melt at the world's watery edge.
Ages old, yet seeming no older than I:
Wind-whipped, scarred and, yet, still enduring.

Forlorn, wild, untouchable seems this place. . .
The lonely sadness of a lingering coyote howl
Harmonizes the wind's haunting melody,
Eerie all but those who know and love such music,
Whose very life and sustenance are this desert:
Ground squirrels and kangaroo rats,
Cacti and sagebrush,
Rattlers, gnarly reptiles and other desert-dwellers
Make peace with this wilderness,
Surviving and thriving.

In such a place settled Abraham,
Blessed by Yahweh, prospering as a tent-dweller.
Through such barrenness
Moses led the multitudes of Israel.
Elijah first retreated to the desert
To find relief from wickedness.

Christ came to the wastelands
To fast His forty days;
Here to be tempted, here to triumph;
Here to prepare His soul
For the rugged ministry ahead.

And, so, a still, small voice (I Kings 19:12-13)
Whispers softly inside me:
" 'In the wilderness clear out the way of Yahweh;
Make straight in the desert-plain
A highway for our God.'"

---C. Marie Byars, November 1986
Ft. Irwin, CA

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