In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
God, Isaiah 30:15 NRSV

Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.
Jesus to His Disciples, Mark 6:31

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through
endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Paul, Romans 15:4

The first going-down into the desert is always something of a surprise.
Where and how did we gain the idea that the desert was merely a sea of sand?
John C. Van Dyke, The Desert

There's something about land.

That mixture of soil, rocks, landforms, air, light, water, plants, animals, sights, sounds, textures, scents, flavors: the land, the place where we live. Always there, in so many ways, supporting us, nourishing us, restoring us. Our home, our refuge, the very ground of our being: the land.

Land is useful to us in so many ways.

But what do you do with a land like this -- this land called the Sonoran Desert?

A tortured land, born of volcanic violence over the past thirty million years.

A rugged land, sculpted by raging floods and pounding winds over the past five million years.

An arid land, withered by too much sun and too little rain for ten thousand years.

A bizarre land, inhabited by a unique collection of plants and animals for four thousand years.

A forsaken land, haunted by the remains of a civilization that mysteriously vanished seven hundred years ago.

A fragile land, threatened by habitat destruction and declining biodiversity over the past forty years.

What do you do with a land like this -- this land called the Sonoran Desert?

The best and highest use of this scraggly land is not readily apparent.

Blade it, grade it, build it out, some say. That is its best and highest use.

Yet amid the dust and devastation, another voice is being heard on the best and highest use of this land.

Preserve it, so we can walk, hike, and ride in the Desert.

Preserve it, so we can watch, listen, and wonder in the Desert.

Preserve it, so we can read, learn, and pray in the Desert.

Preserve it, so we might truly be alive in the Desert.

Preserve it, so future generations might learn the Desert's secrets.

Here life's rhythm is a slave to the oppressive sun, the fickle rains, and the punishing winds. These harsh elements give the Desert a rough edge that exfoliates all who enter, preparing them for renewal.

Various conquerors and refugees have invaded this area repeatedly over the past two thousand years, each on a personal quest for the good life while cutting a path of destruction through the Desert's tender hide. Most sojourners have left unfulfilled, blindly passing by the Desert's richest offerings.

In the 1500s, Spanish explorers first entered the current Mexican state of Sonora, for which the Sonoran Desert is named. They discovered impressive deposits of iron ore, which at that time was used primarily for making bells. So they named the region Sonora, Spanish for "sonorous."

Centuries later, the Sonoran Desert is living up to her name. She is one huge bell measuring 120,000 square miles across Arizona, California, and Mexico. And she is ringing loud and clear, trying to give us a wake-up call before it's too late.

The Desert is trying to wake us up to the spiritual truth about our existence. Spiritual security is close at hand and freely available to all, even in today's world haunted by consumption, corruption, fanaticism, weapons of mass destruction, and environmental devastation.

For thousands of years, spiritual geniuses such as Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, John the Baptist, Jesus, and Mohammed have found that the path to spiritual security led right into the Desert. They were on to something -- and it's time we followed their lead.

This wild, prickly place is ready to do what she was created to do.

The Desert is ready to help us find our place in the universe.

The Desert is ready to help us rediscover our spiritual traditions, born as they were in the Desert.

The Desert is ready to help us understand the universal spiritual truths that bring meaning to life.

After almost three thousand years, the voice of one calling in the desert has become the voice of the Desert herself.

Let's see what she has to say.

Copyright © 2004 Sonoran Cross Press LLC

(Excerpted from the book The Richest of Fare: Seeking Spiritual Security in the Sonoran Desert; Published by Sonoran Cross Press; June 2004; $24.95US; 0-9746727-0-X)

Author's Bio: 

Phyllis Strupp has been part of the Episcopalian faith community since 1993. Her own spiritual journey has included a Roman Catholic upbringing and over 20 years outside organized religion.

In May 2002 she graduated from the international Education for Ministry (EFM) Program of the University of the South School of Theology, Sewanee, Tennessee. Since September 2000 she has also served as a mentor in the EFM program.

She holds an MBA in finance from the Columbia Graduate School of Business and has worked in the financial services industry since 1986.

Phyllis has lived in the Sonoran Desert with her husband Peter since March 1997.

For more information, please visit Phyllis Strupp's Web site, or