I want to sleep with you in the desert tonight, with a million stars all around. ~ Peaceful Easy Feeling by the Eagles
The hour is early and the world around me slumbers. Well some of it does…as I look below I see a city that never sleeps, dimmed but never completely shut off. The black begins to fade into a beautiful shade of bluish gray as the rising sun ends the night with splashes of red, orange and yellow off in the east. The setting…the desert. The sun begins to greet the new day behind a set of mountains and it takes my breath away. The beauty of God’s majesty leaves me in awe and wonder. As the spectrum of colors increase across the sky I am reminded that our God is a Creator and the evidence of His creativity is all around us. DaVinci, Michelangelo, Monet…where does artistic ability like that come from? It comes from being created in the image of our Creator God, who is Himself the ultimate artist. Take a moment to watch the sun kiss the sky at dawn and I think you would agree with me.
I’m really not a desert person, too brown. I am palm tree and water kinda girl. But as I hiked the Red Rock Canyon yesterday I felt something deep within me stir. I have always thought the ocean is the greatest representation of the vastness of God, an earthly illustration of His power and majesty. I seek the shoreline for the peace and serenity of God…I always feel closest to Him there. However, yesterday the grandeur of the rock formations…the hues of red and yellow, mixed with brown and green left me in awe of God’s creative hand. I breathed in the air of an untamed corner of the desert that allows us in for a mere glimpse of God’s handiwork. A chance to walk within the masterpiece He has created. I’d love to tell you that I had some deep spiritual thought in that moment, but I didn’t. As I soaked it all in the soundtrack of the Eagles greatest hits played in my head and in that moment I felt connected to the songwriter because I truly understood what a peaceful, easy feeling was.
Life springs eternal on a gaudy, neon street… ~ Leaving Las Vegas by Sheryl Crow
Las Vegas is such a dichotomy…utter darkness in the midst of the brightest light, and I am not talking about casino lights. The sun shines brighter here and the sky actually seems bluer. A blue so vibrant it makes you feel like you just entered paradise while all around you are overwhelmed by the sin city welcome caravan that meets you at every turn. It’s hard to believe that the beautiful canyon I hiked is in the same place.
As I walked the strip last night I began to soak it all in. The lady with her Louis Vuitton bag strutting by the homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk. The young girl screaming for attention through the outfit she has chosen to wear to the club. The beautiful bride and groom stopping for pictures in front of dancing fountains. The mom and dad with the baby in the stroller and the toddler holding their hand as if they had stumbled upon Disneyland. The man shouting to my husband and I to go to a strip club together because “couples who play together stay together” …who knew?!?! The levitating man that left me chilled to my very soul. The men holding signs screaming at people that the end is near, hell is real, and Jesus saves. All night long I saw the pendulum swing…the opulence and the poverty, the innocent and the jaded, the dark and the light.
Desperado why don’t you come to your senses? ~ Desperado by the Eagles
The haunting piano begins to play and the first words are sung…you hear a plea, a cry of desperation. Desperado why don’t you come to your senses? Why such angst? Because prison is truly walking through this world all alone.
As a sat here this morning sorting and processing the heavy heart that went to bed with last night, wondering what on earth I was doing here, God gave me fresh perspective. He reminded me of two things.
1) Even His children have a tendency to walk through this world as desperado’s. When we chose our will and our agenda before His. When we make the plan and hope that God is on board. When we take up idols, holding tightly to the things that consume our thoughts and lives more than He does. Knowing the fullness of truth yet the distractions, the busyness, and the lure of self still pulls us into back into the prison of shutting God out. All the while He cries “why don’t you come to your senses?”
2) Every person I encountered last night is an image bearer of God…they are hurting, they are broken, they are searching for love and meaning. God highlighted that if His own children have a tendency to revert back to being desperados yet He still showers us with love and grace…then how much love and grace should I have for the nameless faces I encountered yesterday. The very people that God’s heart aches for because they too are His beloved creation but walking through this world all alone.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. ~ John 1:5
How easy it would be for me to say as a child of God I do not belong in a place like Las Vegas. But how wrong I would be. The reality is that every city is sin city. The only difference is that Las Vegas showcases what we ignore or turn blind eye to in our own communities. What happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas…it happens all around us. Sure it doesn’t have the bright lights and showgirls to amp it up but don’t ever be deceived into thinking it’s not happening.
God reminded me this morning that I have two options. I can be a Pharisee and sit in judgment of everyone and everything around me. Closing myself off to be with people who are only like me and obey God in the way I believe they should. Or, I can be like Jesus, my Savior. God here on earth befriending the prostitutes and thieves alike. The very people that the Pharisees would have never bothered with Jesus sought out. The very people who were alone and empty…Jesus showed them compassion and kindness, love and grace.
The world is dirty and messy; I didn’t need to come to Las Vegas to know that. But what Las Vegas has taught me is that blatant brokenness hurts my heart. But God reminded me this morning that the hidden brokenness should break my heart too…the brokenness that is not so obvious, the behind closed doors kind. Las Vegas has rekindled in me a passion for the lost…for those who wander through this world all alone, disconnected from the love of God because those people are everywhere.
In the dichotomy of Las Vegas, I was reminded of the importance of light amidst the darkness. If you light a lamp in a well-lit room all you have done is made a bright room even brighter. But if you step out of your comfort zone and light a lamp in a room that is completely dark then you give those in the room the gift of sight. As a Christ follower I have the privilege and the awesome responsibility to be agent of light. Las Vegas has reminded me to never squander that gift.