Red Cloud Rises, Part 3

They are humming the words of a language new to my ears but older than the English that captures our tongue and dances across this country. The drums boom and vibrate those of us in the circle and I sit there with my eyes closed letting the old chants take me away. The dusty ground has cooled, the sun has dropped below the other horizon and the stars glow in the dome above us. We sit in a drum circle of prayer and expose ourselves to the possibilities of spiritual adventure behind closed eyes.

I don’t know what to expect or what I’ll allow myself to see but I sit still and wander around inside my head looking over the day, the week, the year and how I came sit in this desert.  As I let my mind explore the visions that float down the stream of consciousness I ask my heart to join the journey.


I see a mother horse and her colt stride casually across the red expanse as the sun begins to set. The mother is too small, her ribs roll around under her skin as she walks slowly across the sand. Her colt gently trots to catch up on the points of his spindly legs. He appears to have been fed recently, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Monument Valley sits on the horizon, rocks like old ships wrecked at the bottom of the sea, old bell towers left to slowly degrade under the heat and pressing sun. I wonder, what does God grow in this barren sand?

I ask my heart, what will be and where will we go?  And the melody of the chanters show me the women of Haiti. They are hiking the collapsed buildings of school houses and homes, digging around for the loved ones they have lost in the rubble. The sky is blue and shines too bright, too cheerful, against the fallen towns. The waves lap the shores again and again not noticing a thing. I wonder, where does God walk in a fallen city? 

I ask my heart again, where will we go and what will be? The drum slams hard against my chest and the words move me quickly to the young boys of South Sudan holding machine guns and machetes as they watch the women of the village be raped. The power captures, twists and torments and there’s too much blood to keep track of who pulled the trigger first. I wonder, where does God find clean water in war?

I ask my heart, please show me a promise of what we will become. The slowed rythm of the new chant takes me to a crib where a baby sits forgotten in a cold and empty room. She’s a miracle that was left behind; mistaken for trash and thrown into a dumpster in an alley way behind some gas station on I-65. Her pale pink toes are curled and lifeless, perfect red circles scattered across her skin give evidence she was not completely neglected, her body was someone’s ashtray. She cries and I reach in to hold her. “Shhh, sweet baby. You are a miracle. You are loved.” Nothing I say can stop the crying, no embrace strong enough to console these tears. And I beg for God to come.

The chanting continues, a pressure rises in my throat and then I see the mother horse stop to nurse her colt. She has little to give, yet what she has is all this colt needs to thrive. Where does God walk? What water does God drink? Where is God while this child cries out? What does God grow here?

The mother and her colt run across the desert and I watch in awe at the power they have in their small bodies. Their feet trample and float across the sand and a red cloud rises up. That’s when I see it. The wind that carried the cloud away.

The chanters stop, the drumming is over and slowly I open my eyes. I’m exhausted and I don’t want to talk to anyone but I don’t get up; the Spirit is still here and none of us want to let it go. We look to one another in silence. All of us went on a journey tonight, we don’t need to know where or what, we can see it in the eyes of one another.

Finally, after it feels like the holy moment has left us, we come back to the world we live in and begin to chat simply about what’s happening tomorrow. I decide to leave the group first and go brush my teeth. After I return, I sit on a rock wall next to our sleeping quarters that holds the few green shrubs that live on the mission grounds. I sit and stare at the stars alone. In these spaces of pain and suffering, God walks. In these places of hatred and violence, God finds flowing springs. In these forgotten empty rooms, God can console a forgotten child’s cry. In the desert, God grows many things.

Don’t ask me how I know. I saw it when the red cloud rose and disappeared across the desert.


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