Editor’s Note: I recently received a copy of A Spring in the Desert to preview for my church before Lent begins. It didn’t take long before realizing the wisdom contained in this short book will surely quench the thirst of parched souls in my congregation. The book’s descriptions of barren, inhabitable lands intrigued me, so reached out to authors Frank and Victoria Logue to learn more about their experiences with finding God in the desert. Their book is available for purchase HERE. Faithfully, Allison
“Yes, I understand you are hikers, but have you ever backpacked in the desert?” The question was only a little self-serving on the part of the park ranger. My wife, Victoria, our daughter, Griffin, and I were standing in the Visitor’s Center of Canyonlands National Park seeking an overnight permit to camp in an area beyond the park’s services. Griffin was then eight-years-old and if we got into trouble, the park staff would have to rescue us. Even though the gift shop sold a backpacking book Victoria wrote, we were still from the East Coast. The ranger wanted us to understand: Backpacking can potentially be dangerous anywhere, but a trip into the desert can be lethal.
We answered his questions confidently enough to secure the permit. We enjoyed a late afternoon hike through Courthouse Wash under the towering Petrified Dunes, camped that night above the wash, then hiked back out the next morning. The overnight hike was worth the effort as Arches is a very busy tourist destination and was filled that summer day with bumper-to-bumper traffic. The backcountry permit offered us a portion of the park to ourselves. Together with family trips to Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, we have gained a real appreciation for the parched places on our planet. We raised our daughter to take care of herself when hiking off the beaten path in places where dehydration is deadly and some of the fauna is venomous.
When I reflect on the lessons we taught her by example and shared experiences, we also endeavored to offer patterns for life that help us get through the other kinds of parched places we face—think middle school—for example. Stay hydrated and wear a hat to be sure, but beyond this also find ways to sustain your spirit.
This way of seeing the world fits well with scripture which is saturated with images dependent on some understanding of life in seemingly uninhabitable terrain. While you won’t find a term like “spiritual practices” or “spiritual disciplines” in scripture, we find evidence of these practices in Jesus’s life–a vast knowledge of Hebrew scripture, prayer, keeping the sabbath, and encouraging his disciples to serve others and proclaim the Good News of the coming reign of God. In the early centuries of the faith, these became practices that continue today, not to curry God’s favor but to foster the faith planted in us.
As a family, we kept to the rhythms of the church year, from preparing for Christmas with nightly Advent Wreath services to adding practices for Lent while also cutting back on meat that ebb and flow of the seasons mattered to our household. We also prayed Compline together at bedtime, praying for the people in our lives who needed extra grace or healing. We worshipped together in the Eucharist at the church we were founding together in Kingsland, Georgia, each Wednesday and Sunday. Griffin encouraged friends and teachers to give the church a try and accounted for more of the baptisms of the church plant than any of us.
Years have passed. Griffin now lives in Arizona where she is studying to become a veterinarian. She has come to know the Sonoran Desert landscape well, including the adaptations of the plants and animals that thrive there. She worked for four years caring for snakes, including rattlesnakes, and other reptiles, amphibians, and fish in the collection of her employer, Mesa Community College.
The lessons of life adapted to the desert speak powerfully to how we too must find ways to nourish our spirits so we can thrive even in barren times in our lives. I am most proud of the ways in which I see my girl is a woman who takes care to have a support system in place and a pattern of life that even when facing difficult challenges, she has resources on which she can draw.
The spiritual disciplines we practiced with Griffin kept us as her parents grounded as well. In praying Compline with her, and marking Advent and Lent, we were not simply setting an example for our girl, but also setting a pattern for life after she moved away. After years of habit, we found it easier to move into praying the daily offices together and holding to other practices consistently once the nest was empty. And those disciplines have become like a spring in the desert, offering us sustenance for the barren times that can and do come.
Frank and Victoria Logue are the authors of A Spring in the Desert: Rediscovering the Water of Life in Lent from Forward Movement. Frank is the Bishop Elect of the Diocese of Georgia. Victoria is an author and a tertiary in the Third Order Society of St. Francis.