life in the suture zone...

In the earthquake faults between tectonic plates, the suture zone is the in between place where they meet. I find in that a metaphor for the times in which we live... and invite your conversation in the suture zone.

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Location: Bakersfield, CA, United States

... a struggling, but mostly joyful, apprentice of Jesus.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

beauty and death valley...

Please continue to add your comments to knowing god 2: questions...

Marshall has co-opted my blog! :D (not really) But he asks some good questions for the discussion. If these stories he has requested are too personal for you to share on this blog publicly, you can email them to me at and let me know that you want to participate in the discussion at a deeper level. I’ll create a mailing list from those who respond and forward to that self-selected group. I’m trying to be sensitive to those who want to do their struggling in a little less public place. Then again, if no one is worried, have at it on the blog. Plus, keep your eyes open. I may be taking the tail end of someone’s comment and putting it in a new blog post so we don’t have to go so far back in my blog to see the latest discussion. We’ll see how this goes and adjust accordingly.

Last April, I made my first and only trip (so far) through Death Valley. I am a lifelong resident of California and am surprised it has taken this long for me to make the trip. And it wasn’t really a pleasure/sight-seeing trip either. The road through Death Valley was the shortest route from Shoshone and Death Valley Unified School District to Lone Pine Unified School District (directly west of Mt. Whitney – what an incredible view!!!). It was actually the end of April. Not yet blazing hot, but still long desolate stretches of highway, seemingly barren landscape, dry salt lakes and pretty inhospitable environment.

Amazingly, Death Valley is quite an attraction for wild flowers. You wouldn’t think in such an environment that you would find any kind of beauty. But it’s there, at least for part of the year. And I was told by locals that hotel rooms are booked up for weeks as far away as Pahrump, Nevada, with tourists anxious to catch sight of the carpets of bluish-purple and yellow and red/orange and all the other colors that are part of this incredible palette in the springtime.

Now these are not your normal flowers. The locals and long-time initiated know this. Some of these plants are quite poisonous. Lay down on the ground to get the perfect picture and you will likely end up with a rash or welts on your forearms where they touched the stems of these beauties. One would expect that here, a kind of self-protecting feature built into their short existence. But beauty nonetheless.

Why do we find beauty even there? Have you ever asked that question?

Going across the continental divide once in central-western Colorado, we stopped off the highway at a place that was above the Alpine timberline. It was summer. There is a kind of tundra up there, up where the snow has not yet melted (and probably never melts). I crouched down on the nature trail to view dozens of separate types of vegetation, all bedecked with tiny flowers in multiple hues. Viewed from standing height you miss the flowers. It’s a carpet of vegetation with the barest hints of color to it. But get close and you can see some incredibly beautiful geometrically balanced flowers, complete but miniature.

Is that God’s way of saying, “I can make beauty anywhere and in any life?”

It rained in Bakersfield Monday of this week. On my way home I stopped at the market to get some things we needed to complete our dinner. There was an incredible rainbow to the east. Bright colors and very distinctive. I walked from my car to the door of the market as slowly as the rain would allow (I didn’t want to get all that wet!) looking back to marvel at that rainbow for as long as I could see it.

Most people didn’t notice it. Most people walked with heads down. Too much rain falling. Too many worries. It’s just the refraction of the sunlight through a million prisms created by raindrops at the correct angle, right? There are more important things in life.

Maybe. Maybe not.

I’m wondering if experiencing beauty is much more important than the time and place we give it? Perhaps God speaks in it more than we think?

Maybe the poets are right. And the psalmist....

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
Night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

Psalm 19:1-4 NIV

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil.
For you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4 NIV

Grace and peace,



Anonymous Marshall said...

Thank you, Owen, for this wonderful psalm!

I am myself mindful of Phillipians 4:8.

5:25 PM  

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