How an ordinary person awakens to life as prayer.  Continued from yesterday . . .

Mahmoud negotiated his Toyota minivan through Alexandria’s crowded streets and chaotic traffic, defying the laws and gravity and physics, deftly carrying Mohammed and me past one near collision after another. Safely outside the city, the desert stretched out endless before me. But I’d come out of the frying pan, only to enter the fire.

An Egyptian Christian had hired Mahmoud and Mohammed to drive me into the desert and to the site of the most ancient of Christian monasteries. I had nothing to fear from them; they were earnest and devout Muslims and if I were an infidel to them, you’d never have known it. Nevertheless, the thought crossed my mind more than once that, as an American whose government seemed to be on a crusade against Islam, I was a sitting duck in this land. I had brief visions of ending up on the evening news—blindfolded and made to spout anti-American slogans. Hours passed. I alternated between panic and prayer. The desert shimmered, heat rising from its ancient sands. I knew where I was paying them to take me, but I had no idea if the two were actually driving me there. My panic turned to raw fear. Egypt, as it had done for so many others desperate or crazy enough to follow God here, was already killing me.

More tomorrow . . .