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Surprising life

Surprising life

I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. — Isaiah 41:18

I moved to Tucson just about two years ago and during most of my time here we have experienced increasingly severe drought. A year ago a bolt of lightning behind my neighborhood sparked a fire that raged through the Santa Catalina Mountains, turning the already somewhat barren-looking landscape visible from my back patio into a scorched hellscape. All of that visible barrenness resonated with my internal experience of these past two years in witnessing a hellscape of politicized pandemic, institutional upheavals, conspiracy theories, racial injustices, deepening socioeconomic divides and so much more.

Yet as I write this, another night of thunderstorms gentles into a morning of showers. Water swirls through the Canada del Oro wash near my home and the Santa Catalina Mountains have wisps of clouds caught in peaks and cliffs. As the sunlight begins poking through the dissipating clouds onto the surrounding mountains, it reveals brilliant greens reminiscent of alpine meadows rather than high desert scrub. The smaller washes and the banks of the big washes are bursting forth with lush green plants, vines, colorful poppies and other wildflowers, Colorado River Toads, and birdsong.

The barren landscape I have mostly known in my two years here is now bursting forth with surprisingly abundant life in the midst of a generous monsoon season. And today’s morning walk in view of this surprising life reminds me to hope, reminds me to choose to get in on the opportunities to receive what is life-giving and to offer what is life-giving in the world, even when I sometimes only see barren landscapes.

Just as the desert is always full of life-giving possibility, even on the days it looks lifeless, so can our own lives and days be full of life-giving possibility, even on the days when it looks like chaos rules and evil wins and hope feels beyond our reach.

While we personally cannot choose to bring the right wind currents and moisture patterns that call forth the abundance of life from the Sonoran desert, we can choose to open our minds and hearts and bodies to the winds of the Spirit and the living Water of the Divine that calls forth the abundance of life in and through us even when it looks barren, empty and hopeless.

I woke this morning with a mind that saw barrenness, worries, problems, messes, and it felt like few possibilities for life were available. After my walk full of surprising life reminders, I came home and journaled my morning prayers. I read a challenging and mind-expanding story from my faith tradition. I engaged silent listening for the still, small voice of the Spirit in meditation. I talked with a dear friend about life and our spiritual journeys as of late. I listened to and sang along with a Gospel choir on my mp3 player. Breathing in the breath of God, nurtured in the Living Waters of the Spirit, I could then better envision creative possibilities, I felt renewed energy, and I experienced clarity about ways I could put vision into action and share something more life-giving with others.

Such gifts are not just for me. Such surprising life is available to, in and through us all. I pray that more and more of us will choose to receive such gifts of surprisingly abundant life that we will more fully be life-giving gifts to one another and the world.

Tucson faith leaders, we would like to include your original sermon or scriptures of encouragement. Sermons must be written by the person submitting them, not borrowed from another source or writer. If you are a faith leader from any religion or denomination, please contact Sara Brown at

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Each day we can choose to live into this truth of who we are, to ponder, pray, consider, listen, and take time to be nourished in the Spirit who empowers us to welcome one another with justice and love.

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