the great adventure: day 4
after taking advantage of the motels showers and getting a good nights sleep, we stopped off for gas and brian pumped while i grabbed coffee.
in a 100+ degree weather.
before we left i pulled a banana out of the food box and realized that like brian, they are not made for heat. it was still good even though it was mushy so i downed it as we headed west out of beatty toward death valley national park.
as i suffered through a hat dilemma brian suggested i should wear my black kangol, recalling a teenager we saw at the hoover dam the day before who was wearing a toboggan in spite of the sweltering sun. he applauded the kid and encouraged me not to allow the environment to dictate who i am. i chose the wide brimmed boonie.
call me a conformist.
my morning reading in the psalms was chapter 77 that begins:
I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might, I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens. I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord; my life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal. When friends said, “Everything will turn out all right,” I didn’t believe a word they said. I remember God – and shake my head. I bow my head – then wring my hands.
as we entered the park i asked brian about lamentation in worship. his answer was simple. he said worship is the act of drawing your attention to god and that the scripture doesnt say what kind of attention that is. then he added that part of intimacy with god is getting comfortable with the negative and concluded that its only fitting that the full spectrum of life and emotions be shared.
sometimes…..god speaks with brians voice.
in light of the numerous scriptures of lamentation in a worship setting including a large number of psalms i began to lean toward the idea that the concept of worship as strictly being happy with god is a widespread sickness. it may be a result of cultural hedonism infiltrating the church but it seems very out of touch with the balanced expression of worship found in the scriptures.
i was reminded of the scene in the lord of the rings: the fellowship of the ring where the fellowship reach lorien and share the news of gandalf falling into darkness w the balrog. the elves take up a lament and when merry asks what they are saying legolas tells him:
I have not the heart to tell you. For me, the grief is still too near.
maybe this is the case for some of us. our grief is too near and we dont want to talk about it. we dont want to be reminded. but its good and right to lament because sometimes sadness is the only proper response for what is going on. that we have replaced this balance with a worship focusing solely on being happy is in itself worthy of lament and i wondered as these thoughts swirled in my mind if maybe god wasnt seriously tired of broken hurting people faking it every sunday, wanting instead for us to get as comfortable with expressing the negative as we are expressing the positive.
because hope shines brightest when the darkness is full.
we paused briefly at furnace creek to get an idea of where the u2 related spots were and met a ranger named alan who was very helpful answering all our u2 related questions. he had a few good stories to tell about the joshua tree photo shoot and how the band were pissed about having to drive out into the middle of nowhere to take pictures. apparently they did so during the winter and were faced with a bitter snapping cold which made their moods all the more sour – hence their expressions on the cover reflecting their displeasure.
and yet these photos are iconic. their sharp contrasts echo haunting themes of various songs on the joshua tree and speak of a longing to move beyond the desert. it made me wonder how my face looks when god carries me into what seems like the middle of nowhere to do something amazing.
we made our way up to zabriskie point where u2 shot their cover for the joshua tree and took a few shots. it was almost impossible to get any without people in them – there was such a constant flow of people all doing exactly what we were doing, though maybe not for the same reasons.
then we headed back down into the valley where badwater road took us to a salt flat in the basin, 282 feet below sea level. its the lowest point in north america and was also the hottest we had ever experienced. while taking pictures in the heat i realized that reaching the lowest place was no real victory. i mean it was nifty to think that id been there and all but who would actually care? maybe only god. and hed seen me at much lower places than this in my everyday life at 627 feet above sea level.
we made a short detour along artists drive before heading back to hwy 190 west.
it was amazing to say the least.
it was 115° & climbing as we made our way to the actual joshua tree. just west of stovepipe wells theres a 20 mile stretch of hwy where u have 2 turn off ur ac to keep from overheating. its the same stretch of road where car companies such as mercedes benz and bmw test drive their latest vehicles to see if they can survive the harshest conditions. we passed several of these vehicles with our windows down and withstood the ensuing blast of heat like a hair dryer in our faces, climbing out of death valley over towne pass at almost 5000 feet back down into the panamint valley and another 4000 feet up padre crowley pass, named after a beloved local priest who lived there in the first part of the 20th century.
as we descended at last onto the lower centinnial flat the argus mountain range aligned and we pulled over to look for the actual joshua tree. this proved difficult as the tree died over a decade ago and all we had to go on was a vague sense of the background scenery from the pictures and a notion to find the smaller tree from other album art shots. after hunting for nearly an hour we spotted the smaller tree and made our way toward it.
it was surreal arriving at the base of a dead tree with such a sense of pilgrimage but even though this is no sacred tree and no saint performed any miracles here, i felt as though i was on holy ground. i dont worship u2 or the album, but the fact that i was standing there giving thanks to god for bringing me through my darkest days and lowest points with the joshua tree as the soundtrack to my suffering and hope was no small matter. it was as if i had reached a monumental milestone in my journey from dark to light – as years of pain and anxiety and desperation drifted away into the sand dunes around me.
i said a prayer of thanksgiving and headed back to the car. i still hadnt heard from god yet, but i had taken another step closer to him as u2’s song: ‘walk on’ sifted gingerly through my mind…
I know it aches
How your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on
Leave it behind
You’ve got to leave it behind
we stopped to eat in ridgecrest and decided to head on another couple hours to barstow for the night so we could get a jump on the next days drive. we made reservations for a motel there through hotels.com, but when we arrived they were booked solid and had no room for us. after a frustratingly fruitless conversation with a hotels.com service tech we drove around barstow for almost an hour trying to find another place to stay but there was apparently some sort of convention in town because every place we looked was full. we ended up calling ahead to yucca valley and finding vacancy at a super 8 so brian drove well into the wee hours and we arrived around 3 am, completely exhausted.
the clerk at super 8 was a friendly british lady named sharon who was a bleached blonde military wife with 5 horses, a goat and various other animals. we talked as she processed our room and she seemed extremely excited about moving to pennsylvania as it reminded her of her home back in england. her peaceful demeanor set us at ease and we retired for the night in a wonderfully air-conditioned room. we fully expected to sleep in the following morning before heading to our next destination and due to our misfortune in barstow we were only a few miles away. before i drifted off to sleep it occurred to me that sometimes the things that seem to hinder you can serve to push you closer to your goal.
~ by graceshaker on August 14, 2012.
Posted in adventure, being, god, life, photography, scripture, the great adventure, u2
Tags: 282 feet below sea level, argus mountain range, badwater road, balrog, barstow california, bmw, california highway 190, cultural hedonism infiltrating the church, death valley national park, furnace creek, gandalf, intimacy with god is getting comfortable with the negative, journey from dark to light, lamentation in worship, legolas, lorien, lower centennial flat, lowest point in north america, mercedes benz, merry, padre crowley pass, panamint valley, pilgrimage, psalm 77, ridgecrest california, stovepipe wells, the joshua tree, the lord of the rings: the fellowship of the ring, towne pass, u2, wide brimmed boonie, worship is the act of drawing your attention to god, yucca valley california, zabriskie point