Opening to the Spirit
Today's Word: Oasis
) 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
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
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.