Open­ing to the Spirit

To­day's Word: Oa­sis

Sherbrooke Record - - COLUMNIST - By Revs Mead Bald­win, W. Lynn Dil­l­abough, Lee Ann Hogle, and Ca­role Mar­tig­nacco

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) There is some­thing rather mag­i­cal about an oa­sis. How do those trees sur­vive the desert con­di­tions that sur­round them? How is it that it does not get buried in the first sand storm?

It may be be­cause we do not un­der­stand these things that we come to see an oa­sis as a sym­bol of sur­vival de­spite the worst of ob­sta­cles. An oa­sis is like a can­dle in the dark, of­fer­ing us hope and giv­ing us courage to go on.

An oa­sis can be found in a windswept desert, in the quiet nook of a li­brary or in the eyes of some­one who cares for us. It’s a place to lie down in and rest from the storms of life, a place to feel wel­comed and val­ued and a place to re­group be­fore we ven­ture out into the desert again.

) Oa­sis is what church is some­times. In the midst of a de­mand­ing world, with a land­scape that can be harsh, and where we are busy do­ing, the church can be a lush place to rest a while and be re­freshed.

Slip into a pew on a hot sum­mer day and feel the cool­ness of the smooth wood. Stop by for a prayer in the mid­dle of the day and leave the noise of the street out­side the thick door. I know, I know, the church is a place to be chal­lenged, but some­times it is just a place to be held. In an old church the walls have been soaked in prayer for al­most two hun­dred years and there is deep peace.

Dur­ing the win­ter our med­i­ta­tion group meets in the of­fice, rather than the sanc­tu­ary, and we all say it just feels dif­fer­ent. The walls don’t hold us the same way and we don’t find as much peace. I know, I know, the church is the peo­ple and not the build­ing, but some­times this build­ing is an oa­sis – with doors to draw us in and win­dows and wood­work to draw us up.

While the world bus­tles around out­side, you have a small time and place to be at rest and re­mem­ber. You re­mem­ber that you are home, that you are safe, and you are loved.

) Oa­sis is a bor­rowed con­cept from an ex­pe­ri­ence of thirst I can only imag­ine. I first heard the word on my grand­fa­ther's lap, as he told about his trav­els do­ing post-wwii re­con­struc­tion. He'd come back from each of those trips with a few pho­tos and lots of ad­ven­tur­ous sto­ries to share.

Oa­sis I learned, was what you longed to find when you had to travel long dis­tances over hot desert dunes un­der the glar­ing sun, sand for miles as far as the eye can see. Grand­dad told of how he and his com­pan­ions, weighted down with back­packs, en­cour­aged each other to con­tinue and found the oa­sis just as they were about to col­lapse. They trusted their guide, who had the map and knew where it was. Just a lit­tle farther ahead. Keep go­ing. Don't give up.

Years later vis­it­ing the beau­ti­ful Painted Desert out west, friends and I drove through in a Jeep with a full tank of gas, drink­ing cool wa­ter from our ther­mos bot­tles. It begs say­ing I've never been so thirsty enough to fall on my knees at the mere sight of wa­ter. Yet some­thing in the con­cept of mi­rages haunts me. On a long jour­ney with parched throat, to imag­ine rest and re­fresh­ment where there is none. To stum­ble with wan­ing hope to­ward the next ridge, over and over again to see but not reach wa­ter. The mir­a­cle of find­ing - just in time - cool wa­ter and rest be­fore con­tin­u­ing on.

Though I've never been to an oa­sis, my soul un­der­stands the mir­a­cle. In the dry times, when our spir­its are parched and com­fort seems only an il­lu­sion, may we find the place, per­son, in­sight or state of be­ing that

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is the re­fresh­ing oa­sis our spir­its need to go on. ) The word oa­sis con­jured up for me so many vis­ual im­ages: a stag­ger­ing over­heated pil­grim climb­ing a sand dune on a hot day, leav­ing foot­prints in the sand and see­ing a green space ahead with wa­ter; a vast rock strewn land­scape where there are green trees, bub­bling wa­ter, and a ham­mock; a desert path with camels car­ry­ing riders to a small pond with tents to block the blis­ter­ing sun. An oa­sis is a place of re­fresh­ment and re­lax­ation af­ter a long ar­du­ous trek.

This Sun­day in church we be­gin the sea­son of Ad­vent. Christ­mas is on the hori­zon and there is a jour­ney ahead. We could spend our time rush­ing around busily vis­it­ing ev­ery sale and shop­ping cen­tre un­til we are ex­hausted. Some of us are al­ready part way though our “To Do” lists. I have a dif­fer­ent sug­ges­tion. What if we treat each Sun­day as an oa­sis? What if we pause from our crazy sched­ules. re­lax in the shade on a ham­mock and drink deeply from the wa­ters of re­newal be­fore

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em­bark­ing on the next ad­ven­ture?

This week we light the can­dle of hope, and look for­ward to peace, joy, and love. Take some time to pon­der life's deeper mean­ing. May the light of each Ad­vent can­dle be for you a tiny oa­sis, and may you find re­fresh­ment and re­newal for your life ahead.

One word, four voices- and now it's your turn to re­flect: Where, who or what serves as an oa­sis when you most need it?

Rev. Mead Bald­win pas­tors the Water­ville & North Hat­ley pas­toral charge; Rev. Lynn Dil­l­abough is now Rec­tor of St. Paul's in Brockville ON. She con­tin­ues to write for this col­umn as a ded­i­cated col­league with the Eastern Town­ships clergy writ­ing team; Rev. Lee Ann Hogle min­is­ters to the Ayer’s Cliff, Ma­gog & Ge­orgeville United Churches; Rev. Ca­role Mar­tig­nacco is Con­sult­ing Min­is­ter to UU Es­trie-uni­tar­ian Univer­sal­ists in North Hat­ley.

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