Monday, July 3, 2017


We usually think of the desert as a bleak, lonely place with endless stretches of hot sand, no water and a scarcity of greenery. Drab and dreary, certainly not colorful. Attractive to nothing but snakes and scorpions. Surely not a tourist destination. Who would want to go there?

Apparently thousands of people each year! They plan their vacation around unpredictable dates to challenge that the above description is far from accurate—even botanists and weather professionals. Believe it or not, a desert can become a tourist attraction! 

When a unique combination of sun, wind, water, temperature and elevation sets the stage and the precise location is determined, a springtime bloom extravaganza takes place in certain so-called arid deserts. And people flock to see it as if it were Disney World. It is God's lavish Wonder World.

Rain is needed in small doses throughout the winter. Too little rain provides a poor climate for seed germination. Too much rain, and the seeds could rot or be washed away. Showers too early or too late in the season snuff out possibilities of this fireworks of wildflower blossoms. Temperature is also critical. If the sun gets too hot, the seeds may become parched and seedlings scorched. Very cold temperatures spell bad news for blossoms.

Each year's bloom is unique in its variety, profusion and timing. A normally barren-looking California desert landscape can become transformed into a colorful field of flowers over the span of a few days.

The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southeastern California experienced such a "super bloom" this year. That is a colloquial term used to define an explosion of wildflowers that exceeds typical spring blooms. The park, which is typically bare of flowers, came alive with vibrant greenery, poppies, primroses, and lilies not planted and cultivated by man's hands but the Creator's who seems to like to keep us in suspense.

But surely that doesn't happen in the inhospitable Death Valley desert which straddles California and Nevada! But YES! When conditions are right, including well-spaced rainfall and low winds, that forsaken, arid desert becomes carpeted with wildflowers. This year the conditions were just right for God to paint the desert with lavish colors. The window of opportunity for human eyes to see this incredible display was only brief.

Cactus plants regularly join in the fun. Right in the middle of their profusion of sharp stay-away-from-me spines grow the most spectacular flowers in the entire Southwest.

 Splashes of bright red, yellow, pink, orange, and lavender dot the barren landscape. Because rain is so infrequent, some cacti have long roots stretching as much as eighty feet underground. As part of the complex ecosystem, they store water in their leaves. Their thorns protect the stem and give shade and shelter to human and animal life.


Some of us find ourselves in isolated, arid places—literal or figurative—at times in our lives. We don't want to be in the desert. Even an Amazon tropical rain forest jungle might be preferable, even a bleak mountain, or a deep valley. Here in our desert the fierce hot wind bites our face. We sweat. We have parched, cracked lips and we taste gritty sand. The heat burns through the very soles of our shoes. We have an insatiable thirst. 

Yet the words of the apostle Paul ring in our ears, Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content(Philippians 4:11). Wherever I am? In whatever circumstances? Yes, if I am a child of God, He has uniquely planted me wherever I am for my good and for His glory and His purposes. That includes the inhospitable desert. But something spectacular could happen to me wherever I am!

What makes the difference between despair in our circumstances and hope for change? The loving presence of Jesus can suddenly burst our lives into “super bloom” if we open ourselves to the conditions He arranges for us. The sun (we must be in right relationship with the Son), the wind (Wind of the Holy Spirit must be invited to blow freely through our lives), the water (we must keep ourselves hydrated with Jesus, the Living Water, from above through rain or below from aquifer underground rivers that run secretly cool and fresh deep beneath the desert sand), the temperature must be in the right balance between hot and cold (but Jesus doesn't want us to be lukewarm spiritually), the elevation (we must be standing firmly high on the Rock which is Jesus. I've traveled through the Sinai desert. Immense rocks jut forth from the desert sand.) All these conditions need to be fully aligned in us in order to germinate our aridity and burst forth into full bloom spiritually. 

God's purpose for us, however, is not simply to stand around blooming. A beautiful sight, yes, and a witness for Him to others in the desert, but He primarily desires us to be His channels for that Living Water which He provides sufficient for all. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 Paul lets us know why we may be going through such desert times experiencing personal trials, hardships, exhaustion, stress. God lavishes His comfort on us so that we can comfort others and point them to the all-sufficiency of God. We can offer cups of cold water to others who are thirsty because we have experienced thirst that has been quenched. We can wash their burning, sandy feet. We are to be God's “well-watered gardens.” God wants us to be signposts inviting the thirsty to the flourishing, abundant Oasis which is Christ Himself, the Ever-flowing Spring, where they can drink freely. 
If you are in the desert, take heart! God's promises abound in the Scriptures of what He will do for us and through us in desert places. The following verses from Isaiah do apply first of all to Israel but the principles are available for us: “I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert...I pour out water on the thirsty land...I will guide them to springs of water...I will make her desert like the garden of the Lord...the Lord will satisfy your soul in scorched will be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not streams in the desert...I will make the desert a pool of water, and the dry land fountains of water....”

The desert will be glad and rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it will blossom profusely...” And so will we in our aridity as we allow God to make our deserts into His well-watered gardens.

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