I have fallen in love with this land. I grew up in the flatlands of Illinois, a place of towering cornstalks and blankets of green this time of year but it's nothing like this. The rolling hills, circles of hay dotting the horizon, bursting fields of canola yellow, even the overflowing sloughs that encroach on country roads. And then there's that North Dakota wind, a force simultaneously fierce yet gentle. Everywhere I look, I see God living and breathing through creation.
There's a word in Hebrew that encompasses this sentiment. The word "ruach" literally means "breath" or "wind." In the Old Testament it often refers to the Spirit of God. In this sense, we are reminded of God's presence every time we face the blistery winter wind or a calm breeze on a steamy summer day. The Spirit of God moving among us.
Living within a changing community and landscape, I wonder if this might be a helpful way of understanding the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives right about now. For those still dealing with flooded homes, life might seem hectic, chaotic and messy. For others struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table in a boomtown, finding that "new normal" may be a challenge. Still others may be struggling with questions of faith or dealing with loss. Yet, in the middle of it all that wind still rolls through the valley and God's spirit still stirs.
Rev. Taryn Montgomery
Might I suggest that here, perched in this crazy life place, God is calling us back to the land? Back to the fields that feed us, the prairies that sustain us, the water that nourishes us (even when we feel it has betrayed us). Perhaps this means a country drive at the end of a long day or a visit to the old farm place. Where do you see God "out there"? How do you encounter the Holy Spirit in the soil beneath your feet and the air that fills your lungs? How is Christ breathing through you?
North Dakota native Chuck Suchy sings of how that "west Dakota breeze is somewhere born." Rising over the hill, giving new life to old fields. Another wise soul once said that it's the "spirit of God who made me, and the breath of the Almighty who gives me life" (Job 33:4). Maybe the wind is trying to tell us something; maybe the land is yearning to speak.
This summer I invite you to step into the Spirit's path, to feel the "ruach" of rustling leaves above you. Know that you have been creatively and wonderfully made in the image of God. Trust the breath that rises from within the west Dakota breeze that fills your lungs, your life, your heart and your faith.
Rev. Taryn Montgomery is pastor of Bread of Life Lutheran Church in Minot.