The air is hot and dry and smells of sage and juniper here in central Oregon
where we are spending the last days of our vacation.
The trees look like twisted sculpture, the undergrowth is scrubby and sparse.
On my walk I hear the hoot of an owl, the cry of a hawk,
and the unfamiliar song of a bird that sounds a bit like a baby's cry.
Last week we were at the Oregon coast where the air is cool and smells briny and salty.
The evergreens are tall, the coastal rainforest thick with undergrowth.
The screech of seagulls and crow's cawing accompanies the roar of the waves.
At home in the Willamette Valley, nestled between the Cascade and coastal mountains,
the air smells fresh and clean, even in Portland, Oregon's largest city.
Evergreens grow abundantly alongside deciduous trees like oak, birch and maple,
and the forest undergrowth is lush.
Robins and sparrows and finches and jays and crows and hawks sing a familiar symphony,
the sound of home.
Every where I go, every place I've been, has its own unique beauty.
I've seen the coastline from British Columbia to Baja, Mexico,
from Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia to the Gulf Shores of Alabama and Florida.
I've been to the majority of the states in the U.S.A.
I've smelled the air of Kumasi, Ghana.
It smells of palm oil and spices, of fish and cooking fires and garbage.
There's not been a single place I've been that there hasn't been something beautiful about it.
Sometimes I wonder why we can't see one another in the same way.
We all have our own unique beauty,
every tribe and tongue and culture,
God has allowed me to see the unique beauty of many different places
and over the years has helped me to experience the unique beauty of many people.
The first church we pastored was located on a former reservation,
and the majority of our small congregation were native Americans.
When our girls were small we pastored a church in the middle of orchard country
and worked to start a ministry to migrant workers from Mexico
and in our current church we have a vibrant Latino ministry.
When we first moved to Portland there was a large group of Jordanian believers
that became an integral part of our church.
They even became a part of our worship team
and it was a beautiful thing to have a Middle Eastern flair to our praise.
It was at a ministers' conference a decade and a half ago that a Ghanian pastor sat next to us,
which began a beautiful relationship as well as an outreach into that country.
Written down here like a list of people it sounds so impersonal,
but these have been real relationships...
its been young native American boys who would play basketball everyday with my husband,
us having their family over for popcorn and iced tea after church,
them having us over for dinner...
it's been eating tamales and Guatemalan food at the church potluck alongside the chicken and potato salad
and having names and faces in your mind when people talk about immigration struggles...
it's been eating Jordanian mensaf and worshiping with the sound of the tabla drum
and having brothers and sisters in Christ that speak Arabic...
it's been learning to recognize that someone is from West Africa by their accent,
and knowing the taste of jallof rice and peanut butter soup and fufu,
and having true brothers and sisters in Christ on another continent.
And then, right in our own neighborhood, there are my eastern European neighbors,
and there are my Vietnamese friends.
Wouldn't creation be boring if every place looked exactly the same?
It's richer for the differences.
And we are too,
we are richer for our differences.
Each one of us, beautifully, wonderfully, uniquely made by the Creator.
I'm partial to where I live.
I find it beautiful.
But, oh how much I would have missed if I hadn't ventured out of my own little world
to see the different kinds of beauty in other places.
I may prefer one place over another, but that doesn't make it better or the best.
Let's be honest, we're all most comfortable with what we are most familiar with,
whether we are talking about places or people.
But, life is richer when we venture out of our own little world
and see the different kinds of beauty in other people.
Also joining THOUGHT PROVOKING THURSDAYS
at 3-D Lessons for Life
Kelli at CHRONICLES OF GRACE