Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transparent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. ~ Sara Ban Breathnach

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Encountering the Desert

"You must come [to the desert] with no intentions of discovery. You must overhear things, as though you'd come to a small and desolate town and paused by an open window....You have to proceed almost by accident." ~ Barry Lopez

A Soul Sister reminded me of this wonderful song:  Bring The Rain by Mercy Me

Besides Macrina, I've also been reading Earth's Echo (Sacred Encounters With Nature) by Robert M. Hamms.  It is a small book in which Robert takes thoughts by various nature writers as a meditation and then he, like Macrina, invites me to consider his reflection on the sacred reality of nature.  I was surprised when I first began the book and realized it was yet another lesson in using Lectio Divina.

Remember how I have journaled that God is persistent in encouraging me to learn more about this spiritual practice, Lectio Divina? Just gotta respect such an awesome and persistent God! : )

Lectio has four steps or phases I walk through and even though they may be called by different names, the intent of each is always the same.  In his book, Robert uses the words: Paying Attention, Pondering, Responding, Surrendering. I like these words. : )

I love nature, especially bodies of water, forests, and mountains, three of the five areas of nature Robert uses in his book.  The Desert is not some place I have ever spent much time, but in many ways, I think of Desert as the same as Wilderness and I suspect that is a "judgement" of sorts from ignorance. Still, it is my perception of the Desert, so with all that is going on, I decided it was the Desert I needed to visit.

The first meditation in the Desert section began with the quote by Barry Lopez I used to begin this entry.  I smiled, reading "You must come to the desert with no intention of discovery..."

I have seen pictures of deserts, and yes, they look like a vast and unknown wilderness to my inexperienced eyes; but...I bet if you placed me on the edge of a great desert and I knew I was safe from snakes and scorpions (yes, I'm a scaredy cat)...I would enter with a huge sense of curiosity of what I might discover and Lopez is telling me to come with no intention of discovery!

Wow.  That would be difficult.

Robert then "ponders" Lopez's insight:
"What attitude is necessary to learn from the desert? Lopez reminds those of us who come to the desert looking for some kind of experience that we will probably go away empty. Such a warning goes against our grain." (Hamma, p 94)
Guilty! I decided to visit the Desert in Robert's book because I knew I needed some wisdom when I am in such a place, so I opened his book this section....LOOKING.
"We come to the desert expecting to wait, but we are often unprepared for the depth of the waiting involved. When the desert does not offer up its secrets, we go away angry and tell the story of our fruitless search. Then, in the telling, we recognize something we think we may have missed - perhaps there is another way in. And so we return. But still, there is no answer. The desert chides us, 'You can't get at it this way.'"
I journaled on Thursday about being in the midst of a storm and I admitted I don't like most storms because I am often uneasy.  The same is true about storms that are not from nature.

I think it is important to know the
name of your Demon, Naming your
Demon gives you power over him!
I struggle with fear.  People who see me work, would not suspect this, even people who know me, would not see fear.  But, those who "know" me recognize when I am battling the demon of fear. They recognize it in my speech, in the way I pile work on my plate.... I suspect we all have some weakness, some demon that is always present to move our hearts when the world around us becomes crazy.  My Demon is fear and like my little friend, he isn't ugly and scary looking.  That is what makes him so dangerous.

In my fear, I opened Robert's book, I open scripture ...LOOKING for answers.  Looking for something that calms my heart. And sometimes, when I know where to look, I do find words that calm my heart.  Yet, other times, if I am depending on my SELF (that is Fear guiding me), I come into the Desert searching and looking...and come away empty.
"One must simply be there, 'with no intentions of discovery.' When we are trying to learn from the desert, there is nothing to be gained. But when we've given up the idea of getting something out of a desert sojourn, we may accidentally discover that without knowing it, we've been changed. We don't take something from it, but it changes us."
How true is this!

After my accident I worked hard physically.  At one point though, I began to question.  I remember asking, "What does He want from me!!!"

I became frustrated and angry in my searching.

Eighteen months after my car accident, I made my first trip over 15 miles.  A woman, striving to be kind expressed her sympathy that I was going through such an ordeal.  In that moment I realized I had changed through my desert experienced...without realizing!  I paused and said, "You know, I wouldn't wish this on anyone, but I like the person I am becoming and I don't know if I would be in this place without having gone through this experience."

Since then, I tend to be watching for what will come from desert experiences, and I think Lopez and Robert may be right on.

Lopez concludes his reflection with these words:
"One morning I noticed my hands had begun to crack and turn to dust."
Responding follows Pondering and, as his response, Robert has written a short poem:
I sit and wait,trying not to try,wanting not to want,I have no intention of discover,I have not set my heart on gain,and yet... 
My steps are not accidental,my hands are still flesh.Do I truly want to rememberthat I am made of dust?
Surrendering Robert includes a quote by Alessaudro Panzato:
In the desert the most urgent thing is to wait.
That is ancient wisdom, (Be still......) phrased in another way.

The same Soul Sister who reminded me about Bring The Rain also reminded me of Chris Rice's song, Come to Jesus.

What a wonderful song with words that remind me that whether I'm in the Desert or battling a Storm...I, like the disciples can call out to the All Powerful and All Loving Christ!

My much loved Brother has been undergoing a series of testing to determine what might be in/on his brain.  Praise God, in the past few days doctors have ruled out cancer, meningitis, aneurysm, lupus... Doctors still do not know what it is that is showing up in the MRIs, but they do know what it is not.  For that, I am thankful!

My Daughter #3's due date for their first child has past.  The good news is that this baby finally turned this past week!  My daughter so much wanted to be able to wait until this baby was "ready" to come out verses inducing labor.  But, since baby has turned and other complications seem to have been dealt with the past few days....I will have a new grand-baby by Tuesday.

This is Life.

"Life" can control me, sending me spiraling out of control, gripping and looking for anything from a place of fear and anxiety.

Or I can "live" this life by continuing to work with Practices that help me remain still whether I am in the Desert or in the midst of a Storm. I can continue working with Practices in order to Become the Gifted and Greatly Loved Child of God I was created to be! Praise God!

Many Blessings ~ Sandi


  1. I am hoping for a good result soon with your brother. It is exciting to know a new baby will be here Tuesday!! I will be watching for good news on both counts!

    reading this post reminded me of golf. it was one of the best spiritual teachers I have ever had... the harder you 'tried' the worse it got... the more you trusted and stopped trying to guide the outcome, the better things went... letting go of the outcome, the desire, the willfulness... TOUGH lessons for me... surrender is difficult, but so rewarding (now, doesn't that mean I am still attached to the outcome?) I'm not sure the 'trying' to get an outcome ever stops... Not the same as you were saying, but similar.

    blessings ~ tanna

  2. I lived in the desert for two years. It is a beautiful place and, yes, a terrifying place. Scorpions and snakes are only part of the fear...not to mention bobcat, javelina, mountain lion, gila monsters, spiders, terantula wasps...oh my. And, yes much waiting...for rain. For relief. For coolness.

    Lovely reflection you offer here...and this lectio process, too!

  3. Hi Sandi,

    Thanks for the wonderful thoughts again and the wise words!

    And you for the comment, and yes maybe someday soon we can share those stories!
    I hope you have a great weekend