Scripture Passage:  Exodus 5:1

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.

We know the story.  The people had been taken away, held in slavery.  And now, God is insisting, “Let my people go.”  Now it probably wasn’t slavery as we think about it.  There were no shackles or locked cells.  They were able to pretty much roam around as they pleased.  They were even able to earn a living and have a home.  Their slavery may have more resembled that of an indentured servant.  They could not leave because they were economically and even culturally bound.  And after a couple of generations, they had sort of grown accustomed to it.  The culture that enslaved them had become their own.

So God screams, “Let my people go.”  Maybe God’s most prevalent concern was that after generations of this, the people had forgotten who they were.  They had become part of the culture in which they lived and had somehow morphed into being someone who they were not.  In God’s vision, the wilderness, the place where darkness loomed and consumed, was better than the place of bound safety that enslaved the people.  God was calling for their release, not just from economic chains but from the chains of being content to be who they are not. 

We can identify.  Sometimes we find ourselves bound by our lifestyle, by what our life is expected to be.  We are bound by the expectations of others.  We are bound by plans that did not materialize but that we cannot (or will not) change.  We are bound by who we think we should be or who we think we should become.  And just as God did so long ago, the Divine screams into the night, “Let my people go.” And just like that, we are driven into the wilderness.  It is a place of unfamiliarity, a place of discomfort.  It is a place that scares us.  It is a place that we cannot control, a place for which we cannot plan.  But it is also a place of freedom.    

Maybe the point of this story was not so much about freeing God’s people from her enslavers but about freeing God’s people to become God’s people.  How many times have you looked back into the dark times of your life and realized that, as hard as it was, it was exactly what made you who you are? Sometimes the dark times are the ones that push us into the light, even if the way is through a wilderness.

The wilderness is calling us.  The wilderness is the place where we are not bound, where we can finally be free to be who God calls us to be.   The wilderness is the place where we finally set down the things that we are holding that are not ours, that do not make us who God calls us to be.  The wilderness is the place where we become who we are meant to be.  This season is our time to go into the wilderness.

What would happen if security were not the point of our existence? That we find freedom, aliveness, and power not from what contains, locates, or protects us but from what dissolves, reveals, and expands us. (Eve Ensler)

Grace and Peace,


The Wilderness is Our Place of Refuge

desert%20shelterScripture Text:  Matthew 2: 13-15

13Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”


We are accustomed to the wilderness being a scary place, a wild and unpredictable mass of chaos that becomes our nemesis, our thing to conquer. So how can it be a place of refuge? There is nothing about it that feels safe. There is nothing about it that feels like we are in control. There is nothing about it that feels like it is protecting us. And yet, after the birth of Jesus, after that hard birth in the grotto of Bethlehem, Joseph is called into yet another wilderness. Joseph is told to flee to Egypt. The reason that Joseph and his new family are called into the wilderness isn’t about awakening or questing or getting to a promised land of some sort. Joseph is called into the wilderness so that the wilderness can be a refuge. What an odd twist of events?


But when you think about it, this has happened before. The Israelites were released into the wilderness in order to pursue freedom, freedom, ironically, from Egypt. The wilderness is their way to freedom. And now, Joseph and his family return, traversing the wilderness in search of freedom, in search of safety from Herod, from the certain death of Jesus the child. Maybe Egypt was never the captor at all, but just the other side of the wilderness, the other side of freedom. But this fleeing into the wilderness by Joseph and Mary and their child is to gain refuge. Here, the wilderness is a place of refuge.


Maybe it’s the same for us. Maybe we don’t trust it as refuge because we can’t control it or predict it or pave its path. After all, we tend to think of it as “all or nothing”. How can I guarantee my safety? How can I protect myself against all harm? How can I insure that nothing will happen to me? Well, you can’t. God does not provide some sort of Divine bubble around our lives. Things happen. Bad things happen. Maybe rather than closing us off to life, God calls us into wildernesses so that we will have nothing to hold onto except God. God provides a refuge not from the things of life or the things that we can’t control, but from those things that get in the way of who we are, those things that perhaps protect us so much that they become our captors, our enslavers. But in the refuge of the wilderness, we have to let them go. For us, just as those before us, the wilderness is our way not to safety or protection from life, but to freedom. Because in the freedom of the wilderness, when we have let go of the things that we hold so tightly, we find that God is holding us, providing a refuge, a way to freedom, a way forward.


This Season of Lent, like the wilderness, is often wild and untamed. And yet, it gets us out of ourselves, providing a refuge, offering freedom so that we can move forward finally unhindered and free from enslavement. This Lenten wilderness journey can be our refuge if we only let it.


God, I am sorry I ran from you. I am still running, running from that knowledge, that eye, that love from which there is no refuge. For you meant only love, and love, and I felt only fear, and pain. So once in Israel love came to us incarnate, stood in the doorway between two worlds, and we were all afraid. (Annie Dillard)


FOR TODAY: Leave yourself behind. Let God provide a refuge in the wilderness, freedom from what stands in the way of life. Do not run. Stay and bask in the loving refuge of God.


Grace and Peace,




Under Construction in the Wilderness

Wilderness Road (Negev desert)Scripture Text: Isaiah 40: 3-5

3A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”


So, here we wander in the wilderness, hoping against hope that it will all be over soon, that things will finally, once and for all, get back to normal. So, what IS normal? Is it places that are not the wilderness? It is times that are not now? Is it ways of being that were before? Here, the exiles, just released from captivity, dripping with newfound freedom, are beginning to return. They are making their way through the wilderness, headed toward “getting back to normal”. But their city and their way of life lies in ruins. They can’t just go back and pick where they left off. They are looking for comfort, for solace, for a promise that God will put things back the way they were before.


But that is not the promise that has been made. Rather than repair, God promises re-creation; rather than vindication, God promises redemption, and rather than solace, God promises transformation. God is making something new—lifting valleys, lowering mountains, and, ultimately, when all is said and done, revealing a glory that we’ve never seen before. The truth is, there is no going back. So what is normal? Perhaps “normal” is newness, going forward, becoming re-created. What if THAT was normal?


I mean, have you ever really witnessed a highway being built? (If you haven’t, you don’t live where I do!) It’s not easy. It takes preparation and time and lots of heavy lifting. You have to recruit people to do it, you have to clear the way, you have to show people how to navigate through it. And once in a while (or every other week-end, as the case may be where I live), they have to close the road so that it can be made new. See, lifting valleys and lowering mountains is not an easy feat. God is not a magician. (Oh, sure, God could raise and flatten with the wave of a hand, I’m sure, but what fun is that?) In fact, I’m thinking the world, all of Creation, is even now groaning and shaking with all the movement that is happening, wanting at its very core to burst forth into being, to ignore God’s prodding to wait and be patient. And, no, it will never be like it was before. There is no going back. There is never any going back. In this life of faith, “normal” is newness, it is going forward through the wilderness toward a new normal.


At the end of the exile, the people realized that their former lives did not exist. And so, in this new normal, they had to rethink and recast their image of God. They had to find God again in the midst of a strange, new world. They had to discover that God was not in the repair business, that God was not there to clean up their mess and fix their woes, that God loves us too much to put things back the way they were before.


We are no different. This wilderness journey that we are on is not a “break” from our lives. Lent is not a season of denying ourselves and giving up sweets and talking about sin and suffering and repentance over and over and then sliding into to Easter morning with a “whew, glad THAT’S over…now we can go back.” If that were the case, there would be no point. If that’s what you think, there is a chocolate bunny that you can have right now! See, the deal is, the wilderness changes you; it changes your life; it changes the world. God is doing something new. There is a new normal. You can never, ever go back. But you CAN go home again. THAT’S what the wilderness teaches you.


If you always imagine God in the same way, no matter how true and beautiful it may be, you will not be able to receive the gift of the new ways he has ready for you. (Carlos Valles)


FOR TODAY: Think about your Lenten practices that you are doing. What new normal is coming to be?    


Grace and Peace,