{I’m writing each day in Lent 2017 about mugs. Really. When one is stuck for an idea, and the assignment (a selfie as it were) is to write forty meditations, and one reaches into the kitchen cupboard for a mug for the coffee that might spur an idea…hey…who needs coffee? I got these mugs! Quirky, I know.}

The mug pictured here is a souvenir from our second trip to Alaska. As you can see, I picked it up from the dsc07321Carl E. Wynn Nature Center in Homer. I also paid for it, I hasten to add.

Alaska is a favorite destination. Though it is not all wilderness, there is a lot of wild-ness there! A lot.

It is awesome. It is breathtaking, unspoiled, and refreshing, the latter especially noted when one is feeling stifled by traffic, crowded malls, and a Google calendar that won’t remain static for more than an hour. To hike through the Alaskan rainforest, to gaze over distant valleys at caribou herding along a river, to glimpse Denali as the clouds part briefly…even the panoramic function on my camera can’t take it in. And neither can my spirit.

I acknowledge that every state in the union has its wonders and some wilderness, even New Jersey. But nothing compares with the forty-ninth state and its majestic expanses.

Wilderness. The word is defined as “uncultivated, uninhabited, inhospitable.” Well…personally, I don’t find it all that inhospitable. I’m no camper, not much into roughing it. Maybe I wouldn’t be found hiking unmarked trails, too-heavy backpack and tent weighing me down as I dodge brambles and bears. (That’s one fear: not being found.) But there is something about a taste of wilderness, its natural beauty and innate risks, that is appealing, and rewarding.  Over and over on our trips to Alaska, as we looked out over the wilderness, we uttered that ancient word of Scottish derivation: wow!

Wilderness is a good word to think about during Lent. It is the very setting of those forty days Jesus spent away from family, hometown, synagogue, and all the other comforts of home. Lamar Williamson notes that wilderness is “the dwelling place of forces hostile to God, the residue of the primeval chaos that menaces human life.”  Almost by definition, and certainly by experience, wilderness is a place of struggle and testing. In other words, it might be a nice place to visit, if there’s a tour, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

The controversial film “The Last Temptation of Christ” portrayed the vision quest (if that’s what it was) of Jesus in a profoundly graphic way. click here to view it on YouTube  In contrast, “The Cotton Patch Gospel” musical has Jesus announcing with glee, “I passed!” He’d been driven by the Spirit into that wilderness, never absent from the presence of God within that wasteland, and attended to by angels at the end of those forty days. Lent is our sometimes desperate, sometimes pathetic, now and then sacred way to note his trials. So, we mark the days. We may fast, somewhat; we may meditate on holy scripture. Some of us will go it alone, but more will gather with friends-in-the-faith to worship together at special times; and some will take on various spiritual practices that follow Jesus into the lives of the broken and hungry and fearful.

And I write of mugs.

But seriously, I’m hoping, very sincerely, that I can see in the days ahead, something in the everyday-ness of life that leads me to ponder the rare-ness of spiritual wonders, whether in the wilderness or here in my comfortable computer-equipped nook. Thanks for joining me in the journey. Let it not be a wasteland.