March 22: The Lord IS among us
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I was 15 years old hiking with my youth group to the summit of Cerro Pedernal, a flat-top butte-like mountain that lords over the desert plains of northern New Mexico. The journey to the summit was quite like wandering in the wilderness for us – and we recalled for our excursion leaders the stories of Moses leading the Israelites in the desert. Our leaders didn’t know us well, and we “quarreled” with them as they tried to reassure us that we would not starve or die of thirst. We complained bitterly about the August heat, the rocky trails and the surprise vertical climb just before making the summit. All they could say to us was “you’ll see… when we get to the top, you won’t want to say anything — you’ll just want to listen for God’s voice.”
We normally talked freely and loudly, teasing and joking, but as we reached the summit and set up camp, we became quiet — whispering, straining to hear what was carried on the wind. After dinner, darkness fell on us quickly, like a blanket tossed over our heads, and with hushed voices we waited to see the stars come out. The summer air was so dry that even on a moonless night the stars lit the valleys below so it never seemed to get dark. And when the early August meteor shower streaked across the sky, I lost count at 100 shooting stars. That night I felt the Holy Spirit bond us all as each one of us heard God’s voice in ways we could scarcely talk about the next morning at breakfast. But we did share, and we each told the group how we had known God’s presence on that mountain.
Pedernal means “flint” in Spanish and it is a place that sparked a deep sense of awe in me as if I, myself, were the flint on which God’s steel was struck. It is a place I carry with me wherever I go. Not only because of its stunning natural beauty, but also for the quiet drama that it recalls as the place I first felt wholly certain that the Lord IS among us.