December 15, 2019

Moving from Oasis to Oasis

Desert Oasis, Christy Colsen

Lent 2012: A Journey through the Wilderness
Moving from Oasis to Oasis (Lee Adams)

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
LORD Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.

• Psalm 84:1-7 (NIV)

• • •

When Chaplain Mike sent out an email petitioning submissions for Lent, with the theme of “A Journey into the Wilderness”, I had some immediate ideas.  I’ve done sermons on life in the desert before, and read the Desert Fathers a good deal.  I thought I could write something deeply spiritual for you all to consider; something that would make the reader a “better” Christian, and make me an even “better” believer in the process of writing.

One thing I love about the iMonk community, though, is its raw transparency.  Anything less in this forum is immediately detected.  So, like a lot of folks wandering in the wilderness, I paused, considered my course, and chose a different path.  Here goes…

When I was a kid, I used to dream about heaven all the time.  My sister says that when I was barely making sentences, I would come to the breakfast table in the morning talking about a dream I had about Jesus, or about what heaven looked like.  It’s no wonder.  My family was very involved in church.  My mom volunteered as the church secretary, and taught Sunday School.  My dad sang in the choir and the men’s quartet, as well as being the “Mr. Fix-it” for the church, and the entire congregation.

Together, they led the youth group.  We were at church all the time!  Now, I won’t over-glamorize and pretend that my folks were perfect, but I do believe that they were perfect for me, and they loved their church, and their Jesus.

I may not have understood everything about faith that I think I understand now, but it was certainly something that consumed a good deal of my thought.  Being from the rural South, it was only natural to be more than a little Jesus-obsessed.  As Flannery O’Connor once wrote, “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.”
That’s likely an ideal descriptor of me…maybe not Christ-centered, but certainly Christ-haunted.  I’ve never felt as though I could escape Jesus.  And honestly, I never really wanted to.  Most of my life has been a spiritual stroll in the park, enjoying the stained-glass windows and “Child Jesus with Lamb” grave markers in the cemeteries I’ve walked.  For a good portion of my life, faith has been a sentimental journey, replete with memories that aren’t even my own; stories about baptisms I wasn’t present for, funerals held before I was born, and pastors I never knew.  As I’ve grown older though, I’ve begun more and more to believe that sentimentality is a sin.  I can’t long for the way things used to be, and really be following Christ.  Looking backward is a contradictory stance to the command, “Follow Me.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I value the heritage of faith in my family, and cherish all the memories and stories my grandparents and parents told me.  Those things play a huge role in who I am today.  I just can’t allow myself to be trapped in the past, if I want to move forward in faith.

Imagine you’re a traveler, in the desert, going on a journey to see the house of God.  It’s a tough road, and sometimes not even a road at all.  Sometimes the markers aren’t clear, or have been covered by shifting sands.  Trip Advisor did not give this journey five stars.  You’re on a hard road.  You wander and wander in the desert, until finally, you come to a valley called Baka.  In Baka, there’s a beautiful oasis.  Fresh water.  Shade.  Peace.

Isn’t it easy to want to stay there?

Honestly, that’s where I would like to spend my time, in the shade of the past; Forgetting the financial troubles and relationship problems of adulthood, just enjoying “precious memories”.

But those dreams about Jesus just won’t allow me to stay still.  I would like to stay here, but the water is still and too quiet. It could become stagnant, if I don’t move forward.

So I have a quick drink, and press on, following Him.  Along the way in my own faith journey, I discovered another oasis, this one drawing from the spring of fundamentalist, post-modern evangelicalism.  This seems like a good place to camp.  Here, Jesus is exciting, and He fits into my mold.  I determine what type of believer I’m going to be.  I can be larger than life here.  I can be a hero for Jesus.

But I didn’t become the hero I thought I would be.  I left my career to do ministry full-time, to practice what I preached, but I couldn’t keep up with fads.  It all began to feel like a show.  I couldn’t handle all the condemnation, and if you’ve been post-modern, you know what I mean.  I was the guy who sat on the front row, because “Leaders lead from the front.”  I raised my hands during every worship song, to set an example.  I was critical of churches that didn’t worship in the same style as mine.  I was critical of churches that had smaller congregations than mine.  Heck, I was critical of people in my own church who didn’t raise their hands as often as me.  I was critical of people who didn’t take the same path to God’s house as me, praying the magical prayer and what-not.

Not only was I not the hero I wanted to be, the men who had led and trained me proved to be less than worthy of my hero-worship.  Financial misgivings, shifting or ignored church by-laws, mishandled church discipline…Authority without authority, for the sake of being “autonomous”, I began to realize, was a dangerous thing.

And I was conflicted.  I knew that I had faith in Christ long before I prayed any prayer.  I was a covenant child, “raised in the way I should go.” I knew my kin, who had grown up in traditions where they used real wine in communion and baptized babies, were just as “saved” as I was, but I couldn’t admit that to my closest friends, for fear of becoming the object of my own brand of critical thought.

I wanted to stay there, but the water was just too bitter for me. It tasted good for a while, but the deeper I drank from the well, the more coppery and foul it became.  I camped here a while, and built a solid reputation, along with some large, vibrant ministries.  I also failed at some endeavors.  Regardless, I just couldn’t stay.  The dream of being in God’s House was too much for me.

So I moved on from that oasis to the next.  And for a while, I couldn’t see Jesus at all.  He called me and called me, and I would strain my neck to listen, but I couldn’t hear Him like I used to.  I didn’t dream about Him so much anymore.  Traveling in the desert became too difficult.  I knew He wanted me to keep moving, but somedays it just seemed easier to sit in the sand and wait for Him to come get me.  Again, though, that contradicts the great “Follow Me”, the holy-rollin’ plan for perpetual motion.  At moments, He seemed just ahead, as though you could cross one more dune, and there He would be standing.  I would climb with all my might, and get to the top, though, and He would sound as though He was just over the next dune ahead.  In the words of Mrs. O’Connor again, “Later he saw Jesus move from tree to tree in the back of his mind, a wild ragged figure motioning him to turn around and come off into the dark where he might be walking on the water and not know it and then suddenly know it and drown.”

The desert grew hotter and hotter.  Would I ever get home?

Then another oasis.  The best yet.  Bread and Wine and The Word, history and reason, all together in one place.  Everything mysterious and familiar about faith that makes me love Jesus.

I’m back home, in the church of my childhood.

Have you ever been in the woods hunting, feeling certain that you’re headed back to camp, then you see something familiar, that you’ve already passed by at least once, and think, “How in the hell did I circle back to here?”

The desert road plays tricks on you, I suppose.  The straight line is sometimes a circle.  And sometimes, God’s house isn’t where you’re going.  It’s right where you began.

I’m getting closer to my dream.  One day, I will see His face.  Until then, I’ll keep moving from oasis to oasis, from strength to strength, until I finally find my way home…

Comments

  1. The danger of authority that the author alludes to I think is on the rise today. I think that’s the lesson of Mars Hill Seattle, and what I saw as a fundagelical in Campus Crusade. You combine that with shepherding which some fundys still practice and you have a toxic mix…a receipe for totalitarianism. And many times grace will be sacrified at the alter of Mark Driscoll or John Piper who can use authority more so….

    I can identify with the hero worship. Can fundys admit that they worship their own and make them God? Is that possible? Can they cut the bullshit and admit that fact? I remember when I attended McLean Bible Church in the DC area some people in the church picked up the mannerisms and sayings of the the pastor. Then they’d check out and let this pastor do all their thinking for them. So much for the Bereans… Frightening… Then when I was in Crusade I saw how much authority a staff member had and how all the male students wanted to be like him. And then you had Crusade itself which made Bill Bright into the Golden Calf and worshipped him. How many times did people say, “Bill Bright said…” And then you have other examples… I heard the other day that the trend in some Sovereign Grace churches is for some males to shave their head so they can look like CJ Mahaeney. Frightening….

    One final point…I hear what the author says about the fads….

    From 1999 until 2009 I saw The Left Behind fad, Prayer of Jabez fad, Purpose Driven Life (PDL Campaign), modern worship fad, and the Neo-Calvinists and reformed fad. Some came and went others came and will linger around for a little bit…but they will leave also. Many fundagelical Christians like to practice “Spiritual ADD”

    Maybe they should take their Adderall…. Oops… can’t do that…it shows a lack of faith in God to heal you 😯

    • The authority that you speak of is cult of personality authority, where everyone follows the person like he is Jesus himself. And especially for those who covet the individual interpretation of scripture I find it to be a bit ironic, because instead they follow the interpretation of this leader. But I do come from a tradition that has an authoritarian structure and I am glad for it because it keeps out heresy and the like.

      As for fads… those same fads you mention have actually crossed the Tiber in some places and I view them as a protestant would view Catholic Idolatry. But then we’ve had our own Catholic versions over the years and sometimes they come with apparitions to boot! Thank goodness its relegated to private revalation only.

      I actually saw the first Left Behind movie, man was it awful. Could they at least have put some money in the special effects budget?

      • I agree on the fads. Evangelicals would be wise to hold theri tongue before pointing out “Mary worship” or other isues in Catholicism. Evangelicals have their own quirks. Every faith system and culture does.

        I agree with you on the Left Behind movie. I threw mine out when I was trashing stuff. But I think it had the most cheesy effects for a movie. Plus it was a sales pitch for CCM as well.

        I wonder what Michael Spencer would have said about the Left Behind movie, or books…for that matter.

  2. “Bread and wine and the Word…”

    The Lord does work in mysterious ways (that’s pretty much the only way He works).

    Glad you made it home. One Day we will really make it Home. Honestly…I can’t wait.

    Thank you, G.A..

  3. So…to sum it all up…you became Catholic?

    • Since GA returned to the faith of his southern rural roots, I doubt so very much…..

      We Kat-licks are pretty rare in these woods…….but wherever GA found his home with God, I am happy for him/her.

      • True, Pattie. My brother’s family has to “go to town” to attend the Catholic church. Fortunately, the body I’m a part of is not so fundamentalist as to throw stones at them for doing so.

      • When I read that part of the psalm saying I immediately thought of “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head”. So I looked up the passage online and it says what Guest Author is saying:

        Matthew 8:19-20 “19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

        No stopping at the oasis in any particular place for good, but “Come, follow Me” 🙂

        Pattie, if I’m to believe Rocco Palmo, the South and West of the United States are boom areas for Catholicism, while the traditional strongholds in the East are aging and shrinking. Texas is surprising in its figures: “A quick look at the stats lays out the backdrop: since the last ad limina, Catholics — their presence increased nearly 60 percent since 1990 — have eclipsed Evangelicals to become the state’s largest religious group.”

        But does Texas count as South for these purposes? 😉

        • I think it has more to do with all the Catholics who are originally from the strongholds, moving to the South and West. I don’t know a lot of Catholics with Southern accents, but I do know a lot of damn Yankees moving down South. 😀

          In Pennsylvania (where I went to college), there are Catholic churches in every little town. The buildings are old, and tend to be quite pretty, but the congregations are getting old, too. Here in North Carolina, the Catholic churches are pretty infrequent, but they tend to be really big and new. Now that I think about it, Catholic churches up in PA are a lot like little Baptist churches in NC–they’re everywhere, and very much part of the regional culture and heritage, but the buildings are small, old, and increasingly empty.

        • Well, it seceded, if that’s any qualification. –A Former Texan

          • See, Bob, my impression was that Texas is the Imperial and Sovereign Nation-State Republic of Texas, a law unto itself, and it doesn’t belong to anyone but themselves, so I was hesitant to ascribe authoratively that they were South, West or Other 😀

        • Miss Martha…

          Texas does indeed count as part of the South, except on days when she considers herself to be a sovereign unto herself.

          In Georgia, we have a goodly number of Catholics/Anglicans/Episcopalians in our coastal regions. It would make sense that our earliest settled areas would have more of a traditional, sacramental flavor to their faith, I think. The same for South Carolina, etc. Our university towns also have more of a sacramental presence…at least that’s my impression…

        • I live in Dallas and I would characterize the growth as an influx from outside of Texas. The atmosphere has certainly changed here since 1990 when you would say that you were Catholic with apologies and explanations and not use the term Mass but instead say services spas of to be looked at askew. Truly.

          • That’s ‘so as’

          • Well, tha t is Texas explained! Texas IS the only state that was a NATION and they by gum have not forgotten this…..we lived in far west Texas for four years, and most of the Catholics (in 1980-84) were of Hispanic origin.

            [ We joked when our son was born that we were sure of getting the right baby…in a nursery full of petite baby girls with shocks of thick black hair, our bald nine pound boy was hard to miss!]

            I agree that most of the rise in the Catholic population in the south is due to mobility and the popularity of the south over the cold and aging northeast corridor where Catholics are very common. For those with some education, moving from the high cost northern cities to the soutern cities with technology, banking, medical and education jobs is common.

            We still have to explain the head smudges on Ash Wednesday and how we don’t have services but Mass…but the locals are getting used to us (except the members of the First Church of Florian’s Fire and Brimstone Anti-Papist Fellowship down on Bigotry Street!)

        • The boom of Catholics in the south and west has to do with Catholic immigration from Mexico and beyond.

    • Huol, let’s just say I became pre-denominational…An Anglican in the Methodist church of my childhood, inclined toward spiritual practices that pre-date any schism or reformation…

  4. Taking strength from different traditions, giving gratitude where it’s due but knowing when it’s time to move on and having the courage to do it. Thank you G.A. for this story of your journey told so beautifully. Much of what you write resonates with me.

    • Ali, you hit the nail on the head. it’s easy for me to get caught up in rants about the flaws of places I’ve been before, but it’s also important to remember the things of value that you packed away and carried with you from those stops in the road.

      Thanks for the feedback…

  5. My walk in the desert has been has revealed similar oasis. Each has given me wisdom and strength to carry on. I complained about the heat to a wise young cleric several years ago. His response was…”Just keep walking.”

  6. Wonderful writing and story, Lee. Thanks for sharing with us!

    • Thanks, JoanieD!

      And thanks to all my fellow iMonkers for the feedback. This community has played a tremendous part in my spiritual formation over the past 3-4 years.

  7. I thought I could write something deeply spiritual for you all to consider; something that would make the reader a “better” Christian, and make me an even “better” believer in the process of writing.

    I have a post coming later this month. The urge to make it into a three point sermon was really hard to overcome. Not sure that I did completely overcome that urge. 🙂 I did really appreciate what you ended up writing Lee.

    • Michael, I’m sure whatever you have in mind will far exceed the value of my ramblings. I actually love it when we have posts with points here….gives me fodder for sermons! :o)

    • Only three points, Michael? 😉

      • That is the classic evangelical sermon. Three points, preferably with alliteration.

        • …and a poem.

        • I was thinking of a sort of joke ghost story I read years ago, where the intrepid ghost-hunters make their way onto the grounds of the deserted estate, hack through the overgrown garden, discover a small, private chapel and enter to find a skeleton dressed in the rags of a Geneva gown in a pulpit with a sheaf of sermon notes under its bony hand, the upper page that they can just make out saying “And five-hundred and sixty-thirdly, my dear brethren…”

          😉

  8. Thanks, Lee. I connect with a lot of what you’re saying. My own journey has been similar: Lutheran to Evangelical to Pentecostal to Calvinist to desert times to Episcopal to now starting to be able to trust evangelicals again – the whole journey “Christ-haunted” and with Jesus always unsettling me just when I thought I could settle down.

    I find myself struggling over how to view the previous “oases” along that journey. The easy answer is to reject them as distorted forms of the Gospel, to focus on everything that was broken and unBiblical in those communities. But at the same time, I have to acknowledge the gifts that each of those communities gave me: willingness to pray with others; deep knowledge of Scripture; being comfortable dancing in worship; trusting that the Holy Spirit can act in powerful ways; understanding that everything good in me is a gift from God; ability to accept paradox as an explanation of God; comfort in sharing my faith with others; ability to take risks for the Gospel; deep love for Jesus.

    When after years of journeying we return to where we started and suddenly feel at home there, I think it’s partly because our faith is so much richer because of all the other communities we’ve wandered through along the way. If more of our churches were able to acknowledge that and to celebrate the treasures that other traditions have to offer, maybe this conversation between evangelicals, post-evangelicals, and non-evangelicals would feel less like a debate over who’s right, and more like a family reunion.

    • I love your comment Michael Z. Do you mind if I post a slightly edited version of it at eclecticchristian.com?

      • Sure, that’s fine with me.

        What I said above is really just a paraphrasing of the main point of _A Generous Orthodoxy_ by Brian McLaren, so if you feel drawn to the idea of celebrating the strengths of all the branches of the Christian family rather than focusing on what divides us, that’d be a good book to read.

        • And Chesterton, in his book “Orthodoxy,” makes the same comment, about — if I remember correctly — setting out to sea and eventually hitting what he thinks is an exotic land, but really he finds himself right back where he started. Coming home is good, whenever it is possible.

        • T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Little Gidding”, V:

          We shall not cease from exploration
          And the end of all our exploring
          Will be to arrive where we started
          And know the place for the first time.
          Through the unknown, unremembered gate
          When the last of earth left to discover
          Is that which was the beginning;
          At the source of the longest river
          The voice of the hidden waterfall
          And the children in the apple-tree
          Not known, because not looked for
          But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
          Between two waves of the sea.
          Quick now, here, now, always—
          A condition of complete simplicity
          (Costing not less than everything)
          And all shall be well and
          All manner of thing shall be well
          When the tongues of flame are in-folded
          Into the crowned knot of fire
          And the fire and the rose are one.

    • Wonderful thoughts, Michael Z. No doubt, unless I had experienced life outside the church of my youth, I doubt I would have ever appreciated it as much as I do now…

  9. Nice work, Lee!

    Being a bread and wine and Word guy, I thought you might enjoy this 30 minute class on the importance of the external Word…in just those ways:

    http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/the-external-word/

    Take care, and God bless, my friend.

  10. I can definitely relate to this post.
    The odd thing I’ve discovered about my own spiritual journey is that, in the present moment, it’s hard to tell if I’m in an oasis or wandering the desolate places in-between. And sometimes I’m not sure if I’m actually moving in a specific direction, wandering aimlessly, or sitting in place.
    These things tend to be more clear in hindsight, but, for me, the present and future almost always seem to be in a fog.
    Then again, maybe it’s in the fog that my faith grows the most — but if that’s true, then it certainly is difficult to see faith growing while it’s growing.

  11. David Cornwell says

    “Bread and Wine and The Word, history and reason, all together in one place. Everything mysterious and familiar about faith that makes me love Jesus.”

    The wonder of the sentences above are the clarity that comes with them, that they represent. Clarity and simplicity, just as if one were a child again.

    Thanks so much for the post; it is wonderful.

  12. Psalm 84 is one of my favorites. And except that you write ever so much better than I do, Lee, I could have written this post. It is the story of my life. I went from childhood Methodism in a small-church, small-town setting to “Independent, Fundamental, Dispensational, Pre-millenial” to Baptist (a couple of kinds) to evangelical non-denominational megachurch (for its day) to a desert place to the charismatic movement to house churches to pentecostalism to another desert place. For a time I considered both Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy. It took 60 years, but I find that I have now come full circle back to my childhood — Methodism in a small-church, small-town setting.

    Thank you, my brother.

    • David Cornwell says

      Not a bad place to go back to. I know of small Methodist Churches that really haven’t grown, or kept of with the times, and people start wondering when they will die. Sometimes they eventually do, but many times they just keep on doing what they’ve been doing for 100 years, with a few faithful coming to worship and serving their church and community. Most of these people have a simple faith in Christ, not complex, no doctrinal statements to sign or adhere to.

      May God bless them.

      • David, the church I’m a part of is small, and for it’s first 80 or so years of existence, was the absolute center of the rural community in which I live. Today, it’s making strides toward being that again by sticking with the old program…barbeques, Easter egg hunts, Wednesday night dinners open to all…and by thinking forward in terms of how to improve their property, in order to make it more useful. This will likely involve a buidling project (yuck), but there is some sentiment to also include some aspects that would make the land more useful and viable for the surrounding community…a large community garden is already in place, and there is some talk of a family-oriented park.

        I am an Anglican, no doubt, but my little Methodist home is a sweet place. I find that our brand of Methodism is less judgmental of Catholic/Orthodox/Anglican traditions than some other evangelical groups I’ve been associated with in the past.

        • David Cornwell says

          That’s good news Lee. One always hopes to see some of these church’s thrive again. What goes on in them is simple and brings people of like mind together, and reaches out to the community. Building projects in these areas can be good also, if they are carefully planned, and serve a purpose such as you describe.

          And you are right about the judgmental attitude. It is, in general, just not part of Methodism.

          I’m glad they have you as pastor also. Blessings.

        • David Cornwell says

          The last Methodist Church I served was in a little town where the Methodist, the Catholic Church, and the Lutheran Church (ELCA) were the three main churches. There were many cross relationships among us. Brothers, cousins, spouses and other family/church kinships existed. The Catholic priest had served the parish for many years and was much loved. We did many things together as churches (a concert once a year for instance).

          I loved this place and its people.

          • …and my Catholic church does vacatin Bible School with a Methodist church and Lutheran (ELCA) church up the street…boy times have changed : )

  13. I am reading Evolving In Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans right now. She’s a good writer and I already knew that from her blog. (She visits here from time to time too, so if you are here, Rachel…great book!) Rachel, too, writes about the different ways of being Christian she has been and how she learned to “evolve” as a Christian. I believe that if we EVER think we have it all figured out perfectly, we will be in trouble. We just need to be honest with ourselves and to worship God in the most faithful way we know how, helping each other along the way. Here’s just one quotation from Rachel Held Evans’ book on page 210 in the paperback copy: “Love is bigger than faith, and it’s bigger than works, for it inhabits and transcends both.”

  14. Adrian Zanetti says

    It’s been well over ten years since stopping at a designated oasis for me probably because I overstayed at my last oasis for too many years. I convinced myself that was ‘God’s’ oasis for me. I just could not accept that the water had become brackish and the shifting sands had changed the entire landscape. I now look at an oasis differently and not surprisingly find them in places I never would have looked before, heck most don’t even look like an oasis!. ‘..with a heart set on pilgrimage…’ you accept water where you find it. I have to trust that while making the journey what I need will be provided – and for me that lesson one I have to continue to learn

  15. Wonderful desert story. We have to find the place that draws us out of complacency and leave the outmoded forms behind. That is always an act of courage because those forms were once formidable and effective in our lives and lots of times there are friends who want us to stay. Obviously not willy-nilly change for change’s sake for it is a wrenching experience. The call of the wild, ‘Come follow me.’

    • “Obviously not willy-nilly change for change’s sake for it is a wrenching experience. The call of the wild, ‘Come follow me.’ ”

      Exactly, Chris. I’ve never had a transition that wasn’t painful in some way, and I never left a church setting where I didn’t also leave people I loved behind. Flannery O’Connor also said something along the lines of us mistaking Christianity for “a warm electric blanket, when in fact, it’s the cross.” Carrying that cross requires action and motion…Words like “Carry” and “Follow” do not imply a static lifestyle.

  16. I was thinking of Chesterton throughout the post as well. The setting out that doesn’t arrive at any great shore except the one you least expected to be the greatest.

  17. Lee, I see you mentioning Flannery O’Connor a number of times. Do you have any recommendations on which of her writings I should read first? Thanks!

  18. I appreciate the post and the comments. I understand the journey being addressed is our walk with Christ, but since I am looking at needing to change jobs again (the program is likely being de-funded by the state and county) I can see the same pattern in my work life.

    I keep wanting to find a “forever” job, but for multitudes of reasons my employment history looks just like it did when I was in the Army, in that it completely changes every two to four years. And, in truth, I do arrive at every new job “oasis” thrilled to find it and hopefull that THIS time I can stay, work hard at it, and then for external reasons (not due to performance) find I have to reluctantly move on, through the desert of job hunting, until God leads me to the next oasis. Only in the last six years have I mean able to face this without a total meltdown of fear and visions of being a bag lady. I do know that this is my BIGGEST area of needing trust in God’s guidance and provision, and that He has never let me down…

    • So Pattie, for you it is good you have consistency in your faith tradition… otherwise all that change would be sending you over the edge (welll…except for the recent change in the missal….).

      • Though all the recent changes have been “back to the future” (or “forward to the past”) in that they’re going to a more traditional/faithful/literal version, rather than a new, improved, even more different snazzier version.

        Heck, recently the Bishop of Fargo, North Dakota, was congratulated by the Pope for reverting to the older order of reception of the sacraments (as in my parents’ time, not mine, and as the Anglicans still maintain) – receiving Baptism, then Confirmation, then First Communion.

        I’m telling ya, we’ll yet see the return of altar rails, surplices and not albs on the altar servers, and maybe even the form of Extreme Unction (rather than Anointing of the Sick) as I learned it at the age of twelve, where all the senses were anointed (and we learned how to tell a priest in extremis as he would be anointed on the backs of his hands, not the palms like the laity, since his palms were already consecrated at his ordination).

        😀

        • I’m looking forward to that day, Miss Martha…

        • I actually liked the alter rails and the functions the alter servers performed during communion… seemed a lot more reverent, but then I was a lot younger and more idealistic back in the day….

  19. I recommend ALL of Flannery O’Connor’s writings:

    Wise Blood (novel)
    The Violent Bear It Away (novel)
    A Good Man Is Hard to Find (short stories)
    Everything That Rises Must Converge (short stories)
    Mystery and Manners (non-fiction and essays)
    The Habit of Being (letters)

    I started with the short stories.

  20. Always feel at home here at IM. Thanks for a special piece.

  21. Lee,

    So I sat down tonight and actually really focused on what you wrote here (the older I get the more unfocused I become) and this was some good stuff. My own journey pushed me on a much narrower path from Catholicism to Agnosticism to a brief flirting with the fundies (very brief – more of a perusing) and then back to Catholicism to claim it as my own and delve into first intellectual matters and then transformation of the heart. I really connect with the mystical side of things (Maximus the confessor, Sait Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Bonhoffer) and in some ways identify with your journey even though I did not walk your road. There’s good food and there’s junk food out there… this read was good food.

    • Thanks so much, Radagast. You are among a handful of iMonk posters that have stretched me and helped me grow over the past few years, so the comment is very meaningful to me.

      Peace…