What's Tony Thinking

The Desert Is Blooming


Last week I wrote to you from the high desert of southeastern Oregon and Malheur Wildlife Refuge. This week I am in a different desert landscape — the Sonoran Desert near Tucson, Arizona.

I am here with a group of clergy friends who have been meeting together, more or less annually, for three plus decades, although we’ve missed a few years of late for obvious reasons.

Our numbers are down a bit as three folks were unable to come for health or other reasons. Six of us who are doing what we have long done: each taking a turn talking about how life is for us, what’s changed, what’s hard and what’s good. We cook for each other. We worship and pray together. We shoot the breeze, tell jokes (some of which we’ve heard before), and enjoy our cocktail hour. This year we’ve been doing morning hikes in the desert which is blooming and amazingly beautiful. Contrary to superficial appearances, the desert is alive!

The first photo is a many armed Saguaro Cactus. The Sonoran Desert is described as a “Saguaro Forest.” The second photo shows the blossoms on a Saguaro. These cacti live for a couple hundred years. Look closely at the highest blossom and you can spot a bee. Some flowering trees seem to be humming, so many bees are working the blossoms and gathering pollen.

Photo three shows the blooms on the Prickly Pear cactus. Photo four a close up of one of those.

It is kind of remarkable to be together with folks you’ve been with for thirty years, bonded by faith and a calling. When we started all of us were serving churches. Now only two of our nine are still full time in pastoral ministry.

So we’ve been with each other through child-rearing, health challenges, congregational drama and change, small and large victories, losses, and now for most of us into retirement and grand parenting.

As time has gone on, we are more vulnerable with one another. There’s less ego or need to impress.  Some big challenges have come to each of us over the years. More will come. This year we’re trying to think together about where the church is and will be as we move toward the other side of the pandemic.

Such friendships, held over time, are a gift.

Here’s a shot, with permission, of my five comrades while we were out hiking this morning.


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