Jennifer Camp

love in the desert

The week with you in the desert was not what I expected. I always pictured it as a desolate place. A place of emptiness. And loneliness. An absence of goodness and hope and sound.

But it wasn’t that, was it?

When the Spirit led you into the desert, you were not dropped off and abandoned. Holy Spirit never left you.

How could I have imagined, without you, that those 40 days involved this scene: a bonfire and mirth and story after story of your Dad—his character and his laughter and his adventures in creating all that is beautiful and wild and good?

I couldn’t see this on my own.

Now I admit, while I watched, I didn’t hear every inside joke the two of you shared. But thank you for letting me gather close so I could hear the fire crackling in the night and the sound of your voices as you both sat cross-legged. Leaning in, leaning in, leaning in.

When it was late, your body weak from lack of food, you laid down on your side on the ground, a rock for a pillow, and Holy Spirit sang you to sleep. In the middle of the night, when the temperature grew cold, he covered you a garment to keep you warm. And he kissed your forehead. And he stayed next to you. All night, Keeping you safe while you slept.

When the 40 days had ended, Satan came to tempt you—asking you to prove your identity: turn this rock into bread, throw yourself down and see if angels come to catch you, stand on this mountain and consider all the influence you’ll have on this earth if you bow down, right now, and worship him with your life. And you didn’t flinch.

I never thought you did. But I didn’t understand—or spend time trying to understand—how.

But now I understand, at least a little bit, after spending that week with you at the desert bonfire: you were loved. You let Love fill you and strengthen you and protect you and equip you. Your Dad’s love made Satan’s words ridiculous. While you were physically weak, your body deprived of food, you were never sad or discouraged. You were spiritually so, so strong.

Thank you for how you choose to be filled with Love and you show me Love—and how you discerned Love’s voice above all other noise.

I hear it.

Love makes any desert one worth visiting.

Friend, the desert isn’t always the place we think it is. It might be desolate. Or it might be fertile in surprising, unusual ways. It might be isolating, lonely. Or it might be rich with adventure and meaning. What is your experience in the desert? How does your heart interpret it? Write a short poem on your “desert.” Let us feel it, know it. Tell us a story. Give it a name. Write it below, as a comment, or share it with the kind poets over at Loop Poetry Project.



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my story with now

Now has often felt like it’s been in a hurry. If not running, Now is ready to run, expecting to run, considering what supplies she needs when the gun goes off and the racers are at their mark and it is time to go, go, go.

Why does Now feel like she is running—running away from me?

This happens almost every day, this conversation with Now. To be specific, it happens around two or three in the afternoon. I start counting down with Now how much time she has left until I need to make dinner. I start asking her what moments, exactly, are available to me to soak up, use up, mark up until Now is just plumb worn out and tired.

Like me.

I confess I beat up Now a lot. I am not nice. But expectant, greedy. I am a weigher of meaning, qualifying and quantifying—measuring what matters to Now and what doesn’t. Deciding what for Now is worth doing and what for Now is not worth a moment at all.

And that, I am realizing, is the reason why Now runs away from me so often; or, at least, why, I am sure, she seems always on the verge of running. It’s because I am expecting Now to run. I am expecting Now to run away. I am expecting Now to not want to be here. With me. Now.

It is no wonder that with this kind of pressure to perform, why Now struggles to relax . . . and breathe . . . and be comfortable . . . and want to stay.

So, Now, here I turn to you with contrition. I am sorry for my behavior. I am sorry for my despising you. I am sorry for wanting more than what you can give. I am sorry for my thinking that what you are giving is not what I need. I am sorry for my lack of gratitude. I am sorry for my pride. I am sorry for my contempt. I am sorry for my judgement.

You hold all things. You hold all goodness, all possibility. You hold my past and my future. You hold the promise of hope. You hold what was and is to come, your hands wrapped around it all like the most beautiful, shining gift. Why do I want to twist it from your grasp?

Please forgive me. I give you my heart, my mind, my imagination. I give you my attention. You deserve it. I deserve it. Teach me to be kind to you. I want to be kind. Now is where I want to be. Nowhere else. Please stay.

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to hold God in your hands

I was captivated. The scene at the temple. Simeon, a man old and in love with God. He let Holy Spirit lead him. Heart wide open. Ready for God’s moving. 

He wanted God to move in him. And so God did.

For years he waited. Hearing God speak to him many years ago: he would not see heaven until he saw the face of God. 

He believed Him. And so he waited. Faithfully.

On the day God whispered to him to enter the temple, Simeon did not hesitate. He did not worry about what he needed or what he didn’t–what supplies he should carry with him, or what clothes he should wear. His heart beat with excitement. Today . . . he would see God.

As his feet found the steps to the holy building, he saw a young mother and her husband. At eight days old, the baby was circumcised and given his name. The name shared by the angel. The name given by God–and told to the young girl–before the child was conceived. And now, four weeks later, the young couple ready themselves for the ceremony. They will present their baby to the Lord. 

Simeon, both energized and amazed, made his way through the temple. Expectant. Eager to get close.

The mother held the baby to her arms, her husband protectively near. Simeon met their eyes as he approached, his legs now weak beneath him and his empty, open hands shaking at his sides. There He was, in her arms. The baby, the King, the Son of God. The One who would bring salvation to the world. 

He couldn’t resist. How could he resist God? Holy Spirit led him there this day, guiding him into the temple. And now He whispered again into his heart and Simeon was overwhelmed.

There. There He is. Behold. Me. All Glory and Hope. My Son.

How could he turn away? How could he think about anything else? How could he notice his aching joints, his tired eyes, his heart about to burst from excitement and thrill and joy!? How could he not hold the baby this young mother held with adoration and love? How could he not scoop him up, right out of her arms, and feel his warmth, smell the sweetness of his skin? 

God must have whispered into the young mother’s heart too–and maybe the husband’s. How otherwise would they let a man they had likely never met–a man they had probably never seen–come and take up the baby from their arms? 

And with their consent, Simeon took the baby and held Him to his heart. He looked into his eyes opening from sleep as he moved from his mother’s arms to his, and Simeon was held there too. Held by Everything. Held by Love. Held by the Father’s hands holding him as he glorified God, the Savior of the whole world. 

Such wonder! Such rapture and amazement! How Simeon must have laughed! And cried! And called out in gratitude and joy! And how God must have leaned in close, in delight at Simeon’s love for Him! For his Son! For his openness to Holy Spirit in him opening him up, wide open, to receive and receive and receive the love of God.

Simeon held God in his two hands. 

As God held him.

And, in even greater kindness, God whispered to Simeon’s heart to tell the mother that challenges would be coming–for her son, her baby boy, and for her. Her love for him would pierce her heart. And these words from God through Simeon would help prepare her for what was coming. I also imagine that Simeon’s recognition of this baby as God’s very Own made the young couple feel held, too, and not at all alone.

Will you join me in letting your imagination ponder the wild delight and excitement and hope in that temple scene? Will you let yourself be Simeon? Eager and humble. Faith-filled and child-like with amazement and joy. Kind and blessed with God’s favor as he, with zeal and wonder, took up the Son of God in his two hands? Will you? 

Will you imagine the scent of baby Jesus? Will you imagine God’s smile? Will you feel Holy Spirit’s energy? Will you breathe in God’s breath? Will you feel his skin against your own? Will you let his eyes swallow you whole?

Consider writing a poem in response to your spending time with God. You might want to jump into Luke 2: 21-38 to contemplate this scene of Mary and Joseph presenting baby Jesus in the temple. In this case, maybe it won’t be Simeon who stands out to you in those passages. Perhaps, instead, it will be Mary–or Joseph–and the emotion they feel in these moments. Or Anna, the very old prophet who (I can’t imagine her not doing this with exuberance) declaring to all who would hear the glory of God. Or, is there another passage of scripture that you have been spending time with this week? If so, what does your heart want to express, in response?

This prompt idea is just an invitation–and you might want to write about something else altogether. Do it. Don’t hold back. This first month of the new year might be a wonderful time to reflect on the past year–what it held, what it didn’t–and, perhaps, to look forward to what is ahead, too.

I look forward to hearing your beautiful words.




Last year I sat behind a metal storage bin
where wooden steps led to a platform
for loading and unloading factory supplies.
From this hill, a thick bluff above Wengen,
the new year became one picture:
a woman at a white sink with
morning light shining bright on her face,
feet and hips ready to sway to
mercy holding fast the cries of the land.

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