The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The Desert Mothers and Opal Dream


The Desert Mothers: Spiritual Practices from the Women of the Wilderness
by Mary C. Earle presents a rounded and revealing portrait of these bold Christians in the fourth century who gave themselves over to a life of prayer and service. The mothers, or ammas as they were called, carefully nourished the love of God through the regular practice of silence and solitude. They also welcomed visitors seeking their advice about the important qualities to seek on a spiritual journey.

A spiritual director and retreat leader, Earle begins this insightful book by noting that the desert mothers saw the sin of forgetting as the source of all our troubles. When we forget that God is the creator of all life and everything that happens to us, we lose a sense of our own sacredness and that of creation as well.

Earle looks at the most important spiritual practices of the ammas including not judging, seeing the daily world as a spiritual teacher, learning the art of discernment, making the most of spiritual guidance, being humble, showing up daily and living a dedicated life. The desert mothers model a rich spiritual life for us with their appreciation of quiet, their call to balance and moderation, and their emphasis on the importance of virtues in everyday life (Morehouse Publishing Company).


Opal Dream is a little movie that didn’t get wide distribution, so it’s good that you can now see it on DVD. It’s a sweet story about family love. The Williamsons live in a small opal-mining town in South Australia. Dad Rex is convinced that it’s just a matter of time until he finds some gems. Mother Annie earns the family income by working as a supermarket clerk. Son Ashmol respects his father’s enthusiasm but is a bit tired of his sister, Kellyanne, 9, who spends all her spare time with two imaginary friends named Pobby and Dingan. The family alternates between playing along with her and encouraging her to stop pretending.

One day in an attempt to help Kellyanne separate herself from her imaginary playmates, Rex offers to take them with him to his mining claim. But when he returns home that night, Kellyanne maintains that her friends aren’t in his truck and insists that her father go back and look for them. Another miner, spotting Rex there late at night, charges him with trying to rob his claim and takes him to court. Meanwhile, Kellyanne is so grief-stricken by the loss of Pobby and Dingan that she falls seriously ill.

Imagination fuels our dreams of the future. Kellyanne’s imaginary friends give her life color, detail and adventure. Her father’s dreams of finding opals give him the energy to face each day with hope. It is Ashmol, however, who is central to this story. He becomes a spiritual warrior, willing to do anything to help his sister feel better—using his imagination as an instrument of creative love that liberates and gives meaning to all it touches (Universal Home Entertainment, PG).


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February issue


Embracing diversity