Monday, June 30, 2014

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world?

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. Psalm 112:4

Luz resplandece en las tinieblas para el que es recto;
El es clemente, compasivo y justo. Salmo 112,4

This morning my internal alarm clock clicked on, and I woke up completely befuddled as to where I was and what I was supposed to be doing. My fogged brain soon sorted things out, slipped on my swimming suit and headed off to long-distance day at the Hillenbrand Pool.

But the rest of me is also sorting things out. What this Peaceful Leader actually looks like in the day-to-day. And the one who is like Jesus, gentle and lowly of heart. And when and how to speak up for those without a voice, how to live justly, love mercy and walk humbly before our God. 

And somehow the past two days have been full of the war question. Tim is reading a book by a previous U.S.Marine who is now getting his PhD at Denver Seminary,Through all the Plain, by Benjamin John Peters. And Mary Kaech, who is now pretty much my all time hero and role model of How Then Shall We Live, posted an article, “19 Reasons Latin Americans Come to the United States that Have Nothing to Do with the American Dream,” detailing the ugly military and political interventions of the United States in Latin America over the past 100 years. Not exactly following along the Love your Neighbor as Yourself policies that should reflect a country founded on the principles of inalienable rights. And Dustin has thoughtfully set my computer to open at Reddit so whenever I restart I can immediate access to all of the trending articles of the English-speaking world, one of which was written over seventy years ago by a Major General awarded two Congressional medals of honor for his participation in these just-named military interventions. His article is entitled “War is a Racket,” and as our nation reflects on the outcome and effectiveness our most recent and very costly intervention in Iraq, what am I to do with all of this tangled information?  While at the same time, reading Facebook posts of beloved and respected friends heading off to Navel Academy or taking up new posts in Afghanistan or returning after completing two tours of duty.

I don’t want to be a silent coward hiding behind the wall of inoffensive politeness. But nor do I want to be distracted by policy and doctrine when I am to be about My Father’s business.

So what I think I need to do is to be ready, attentive for His soft steady voice, ready to leap, or kneel, as He directs. He is the One who works, my task is to hold loosely to my thoughts and my preconceptions, ready always with my response, “Speak LORD, for Your servant listens. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Those yellow boingy cords are pretty tempting

Venid a mí todos los que estáis trabajados y cargados, y yo os haré descansar. Mateo 11,28

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:29-30

 Already I can start to feel the hard uncompromising compromisos of life settle in around my shoulders. The shifting, the adjusting, the complicated weight is pressing in.

It sort of reminds me of Nicole's bicycle on El Camino.

She likes weight. So she said, so we loaded it on: a tent, two sleeping bags, spare tires, patches and glue, a bike pump, Powerbars, the medical kit and toothbrushes, sunscreen, five or six books, flashlights, bathing suits and googles and caps, electronics and accompanying chargers and cords, journals and pens, layers of biking clothes, cute dresses just in case, jackets, a ziplock bag of Grandpa's Bibles, and, hey why not, an inflatable air mattress.

But the thing about Nicole is that she knows her stuff. Really this little Camino was a walk in the park compared to all those years of training in frigid Chicago.

I, on the other hand, do not. No pretending at all that I was capable, knowledgable, skilled, strong, independent...nothing. Just me and I my little water bottle peddling as close as I could to try and catch her draft.

And Jesus sounds a lot like Nicole: Hey mom, don't worry about a thing. I will take care of it all. Just do what I say, and you will be fine, Jes' fi-un, like Grandpa always used to say.

Why in the world would I try and sneak out and strap a few extra concerns and troubles onto my bike? Or pack away a few parcels or rocks?

Learn from Me, who am gentle and lowly in heart, and I will give you rest for your soul.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

He is such a lover of poor pilgrims

Buscaré la perdida, haré volver la descarriada, vendaré la perniquebrada y fortaleceré la enferma; pero destruiré la engordada y la fuerte. Las apacentaré con justicia. Ezequiel 34:16

I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. Ezekiel 34:16

This is the promise of The Lord God Almighty.

And I am surrounded by beauty and goodness just now, at the House Beautiful in my pilgrimage, in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. And yesterday we climbed up North Table Mountain and it was perfectly clear where the name came from, golden billowing wheat tossed about by a full- of-promises-of-rain breeze.

Thus they discoursed together till late at night; and after they had committed themselves to their Lord for protection, they betook themselves to rest. The pilgrim they laid in a large upper chamber, whose window opened towards the sun-rising. The name of the chamber was Peace, where he slept till break of day, and then he awoke and sang,

"Where am I now? Is this the love and care
Of Jesus, for the men that pilgrims are.

   . . . Then I saw in my dream, that on the morrow he got up to go forward, but they desired him to stay till the next day also; and then, said they, we will, if the day be clear, show you the Delectable Mountains; which, they said, would yet farther add to his comfort, because they were nearer the desired haven than the place where at present he was; so he consented and stayed. When the morning was up, they had him to the top of the house, and bid him look south. So he did, and behold, at a great distance, he saw a most pleasant mountainous country, beautified with woods, vineyards, fruits of all sorts, flowers also, with springs and fountains, very delectable to behold. Then he asked the name of the country. They said it was Immanuel's land; and it is as common, said they, as this hill is, to and for all the pilgrims.

And Christian spent three days there at House Beautiful, where he was strengthened and armed for his continued journey, for the road ahead was hard and slippery, and led through the Valley of Humiliation.

And in this world of beauty, this world of sweeping vistas and snow-capped mountains, this world of freshly chopped garden rhubarb and sweet rolls bubbling over the edge of the buttered pan, in this world of snuggling under woven blankets among heaps of squishy pillows, there is pain and injustice and brokenness right around the corner.

And it is impossible to hold the good and the evil in my human heart and mind. I cannot grasp the pain of the Taliban sweeping through Afghanistan even at this moment. Or the horrors and ramifications of World War I, the war that did not indeed end all wars, but rather unleashed new standards of destruction. Or even the back story of the two grizzled men sharing a doorstep and a brown paper bag as we drove home from downtown Denver last night.

But The Lord God Almighty can, and does. And He has declared that justice will be done, and that He will seek the lost, and the strayed will be brought back, He will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.

He is the Good Shepherd who lay down His life for His sheep.

And Jesus said unto them, "Follow me."

 And Christian replied, And besides, O thou destroying Apollyon, to speak truth, I like his service, his wages, his servants, his government, his company, and country, better than thine; therefore leave off to persuade me farther: I am his servant, and I will follow him.

Friday, June 27, 2014

May I be returning home with more than a half-empty suitcase

Pero Jesús no se lo permitió, sino que le dijo: Vete a tu casa, a los tuyos, y cuéntales cuán grandes cosas el Señor ha hecho por ti, y cómo tuvo misericordia de ti. Marcos 5,19

And  Jesus did not permit him (to travel on with Him) but said, “Go home to your friends and family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” Mark 5:19

And this is where the rubber meets the road.

And as I made my way, slowly, very slowly, with three and three and six-hour flight delays, back to my loved ones, I could feel the cultural trappings start to settle in around me, like a well-worn and comfortable sweatshirt.

But since I actually did not have a sweatshirt, I was very grateful to face all of that air conditioning with the black sweater that Nicole had nabbed from Marco's Vintage Shop, which provides rent and food payments for those who need help, as well as stacks of free clothes from the donations that are not vintage, but merely "old."

And not withstanding my St Francis resolves, my listening shifted slowly into chatting, and my eye contact glanced away more frequently, and my vocabulary became less precise. And I checked my email a lot more frequently.

And I imagine on lots of levels it would be easier for the demonic who lived in the caves to move on and not return to the same commitments and relationships and challenges, but Jesus sent him back. And the challenge is to faithfully and humbly proclaim His great works and his great mercy.

For instance, this morning I woke up thinking, or was it dreaming, about my homeroom class at Desert, and how I am to change the systems and routines to disciple these students into being more like Jesus. Because I have been told to make disciples, and now I have a deeper understanding of that commandment and more urgency in my heart. May I not be complacent with the peace that the world gives, but may I be about His business, both to restoration and to honor and glorify His name.

And last night, I was flipping through the photos with Jenny and Tim, a very gracious audience by the way, just before they served me homemade lamb gyros, and suddenly I remembered the guy with the tuxedo and the guy with the red shirt and the guy starting a restaurant on our last walk through Istanbul. And suddenly I remembered the palpable presence of God, yearning to tell each of these men that He so loved them. And I have also been commanded to heal the sick and bind up the broken-hearted and loose the captives, whatever that looks like, it is my business, or rather His business to find out.

And there is sure a lot that I don't know or understand. For instance, the demon-possessed man saw Jesus from afar and ran and worshipped Him. And Jesus at once had mercy on Legion, and did not torment him, and did not cast him out of the country.

But it is not my job to know or understand, but simply to obey that soft, yet steady voice that I am learning to recognize.

I reread the Christianity Today article about how to be a peaceful leader, and was struck again by this quote: Peaceful leaders offer a fresh view of Jesus because he is embedded in their character.

May they say, "She has been with Jesus."

And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

For he had been with Jesus.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The world is too large a place to fit into one man's head, a quote from my Istanbul mystery

Porque ha engrandecido sobre nosotros su misericordia, y la fidelidad de Jehova es para siempre. Alelula. Salmos 117,2

Excelso Dios, no hay dia ni hora en que no se invocan tu nombre, en miles de idiomas, en miles de voces que suplican, que reclaman y que buscan consuelo ante un sinfin de necesidades. Permite, Señor, que esas manos plegadas en oraciones se juntas como eslabones de una cadena, a fin de que juntas podambos fortelecernos en la fe y la esperanza.

This is a big travel day, across London on the Underground, across the Atlantic to Philadelphia, and then across the West to Denver and my sweet sister. That's a lot of people.

But You have enough mercy and faithfulness for each one, because You are God.

Right now I am sitting in John and Lucy's cozy living room overlooking a dappled light park, and all is still. But every stillness has its story. John told me that twenty years ago, a little girl ran across the street and was killed, so that is why the city council decided to block this street.

And today may I be a blessing. Me with the Venetian glass St. Francis cross around my neck as a reminder.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

May I be a link in the great chain of Your love, that We will strengthen each other in faith and hope.


A holy intention even in the so very long lines at Heathrow

La paz os demo, mi paz os doy; yo no os doy como el mundo la da. No se turbe vuestro corazon, ni tenga miedo. Juan 14,27

I certainly thought about traveling lightly yesterday. The City of Lugo donated an apartment to Marco's community group to use as a home for women and children in need, but first of all they must pack up the lives of those who had left them behind. And one was an eighty-year-old woman who had just died, and her family wanted it all: chewed by who-knows-what varmint boxes of receipts and church programs and daily calendars with the name of a bank stamped in gold on the front cover, enough telephones to trace the entire history of this modern invention, countless jars of honey and Nutella with just one more spoonful or shampoos and lotions with just one more squeeze, and bags and bags of blankets and shoes and kitchen towels and scratchy sweaters. And of course we all considered the lilies of the valley and the birds of the air and bigger barns while we worked. And really, at many levels, all this packing and up and down stairs and lowering beds out of the window was as delightful as boating around Venice or beach days at Ravenna because of the happy spirits and goodwill of all these young men singing and laughing as they loaded up the big truck for storage in a large country farmhouse also provided by the city.

And we rode our little bikes down the street for another capuchino, where Marco soon received the good news and the bad news phone call from the city's lawyer, and it was difficult to know which was which: the city had decided to donate all of the stuff to the ministry, and by the way, all of it had been stored in the wrong empty farmhouse and needed to be moved immediately.

And Marco was unhappy because he likes things done correctly and efficiently, and this was neither, and they had worked all day Saturday as well.

But Nicole reminded us of something true, that is so true I hope to remember it all of my life. Just as the first sorting and hefting and stacking had been an act of joyous worship, so could the resorting, the re-hefting,  and the re-stacking be a joyous act of worship. If it is all done for His honor and glory, it doesn't really matter what it happens to be.

And besides, it doesn't matter how far that old farmhouse is out in the country, because now I know how to ride 100 km a day. No problem.

This is the message that has so struck pastor Chris that he has taught it over and over again these past few years, so that its truth may settle in deeply and take root and produce the fruits of love, joy and peace: we can choose each act to be an act of worship. For His honor and glory.

Whether it is crafting beautiful violins like the Penazzi grandfather, or wood oven roasted eggplant and garlic pizzas like the brothers served us last night. Or standing in a British Airways line chatting with a Las Angeles hairdresser about his awe-inspiring visit to Rome. Or not getting access to the free airport internet so I can curl up with my old friend Annie Dillard once again.

And last night after the pizza and the nice bottle of white wine and before the game of Spades, we prayed for each other and the lives we will led this next year, just out of sight around the next curve. May we each live freely in His peace and provision, and not look to the world's peace, where moth and rust and little mice do certainly corrupt.

Centered in Him and His great love. Free, free at last.

And Annie Dillard ends her book of questions about The great I AM with some words from Martin Buber: the world of ordinary days affords us that precise association. With God that redeems both us and our speck of the world. God entrusts and allots to everyone an area to redeem: this creased and feeble world, "the world in which you live, just as it is and not otherwise." Here and now, presumably, an ordinary person would approach with a holy and compassionate intention the bank and post office, the car pool, the God-help-us television, the retirement account, the car, desk, phone, and keys. "Insofar as he cultivates and enjoys them in holiness, he frees his soul...he who prays and sings in holiness, eats and speaks in holiness, in holiness performs the pointed ablutions, and in holiness reflects upon his business, through him the sparks which have fallen will be uplifted, and the worlds which have fallen will be delivered and renewed."

So be it. In holiness, free, free at last.

The British Airways flight is three hours late and there are quite a few people worried about missed connections, but there is no one around to answer questions.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Peace like a river...or lagoon

Oh Dios, me ensenaste desde mi joventud, y hasta ahora he manifestado tus maravillas. Salmo 71,17

Pablo escribe a Timoteo: Persiste tu en lo que has aprendido. 2 Timoteo 3,14

De boca y corazon load al Dios del cielo, pues dionos bendicion, salud, paz y consuelo. Tan solo a su bondad debemos nuestro ser; su santa voluntad nos guia por doquier. Martin Rinckhart

Yesterday was certainly full of manifest marvels.

Stefano and Monica rented a little motorboat and took us everywhere tourists don't go. I can understand their weariness of endless rolling suitcases, a veritable uninterrupted undulating  river flowing past their bedroom window, day and night, two blocks off the Grand Canal. Giovanni was relegated to the neighborhood library, as he attempts to cram a lifetime of education, including Latin and Art History, into three six-hour written tests and one oral exam in front of seven professors. He is a little tired.

We first circled Venice proper, with a punctilious nod towards St. Mark's, but with a more detailed run through the Armory, the shipbuilding zone that once encompassed one fifth of the city. Then we cut out across the lagoon, past the cemetery island conveniently located across from the hospital, traipsed through St. Peter's Church, and then rode over to an island filled with gardens and a huge farmhouse now recast as an informal summertime restaurant where we ate freshly gathered-from-the-lagoon octopi, prepared in every imaginable manner with sides of squash blossom risotto, heaped about with fresh eggplant, tomatoes and artichokes from the backyard. Artichokes were in such abundance that their flowers decorated the tables and were available for sale as bouquets. Imagine that, Mr. Alan Voelkel.

Then off to an island monastery founded by St. Francis, Isle of the Desert, a simple structure available for personal retreats, tucked in amongst bountiful gardens and the always pointing upward cypress trees. Thus it is not a physical desert, but a place of spiritual solitude to seek His voice, and His alone.

Past a tree-infested Boy Scout Island where Stefano led so many troops camping, to a colorful fishing village famous for its woven lace. Here we tied up and visited yet another one of Stefano's friends and his new restaurant, where he not only creates beautifully presented seafood, but he painted the canvases on the wall and the dishes on the table as well.

Then we roared across the water to quickly splash cold water on our sunburned noses before walking into Free Art Night, where dozens and dozens of galleries, palaces, and installments were open to yet another undulating river of people, Venetian art patrons, flowing past yet one after another marvel of creativity, of beauty, or at least, of interest.

And the point of all this is that every good thing comes from the Father of Lights, with Whom there is no shifting shadow.

And It is He who guides me, He who has taught me since my childhood. Nicole's Scripture reading this morning were those so familiar verses from Philippians four, claimed by me the dorky eight-year-old, which now form a variety of my internet passwords...if you do this you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.

And during mass this morning, in the Campostrinis' 16th century church where I was indeed surrounded by many visible clouds of witnesses, God reminded me that I am only to ask for today's daily bread. He is enough for today, faithful, true and full of manifest marvels.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Afterwards Stefano's father greeted us, the tall Americans, and took us for a glass of proseco,    before we dashed home for a quickly tossed together salad, sautéed freshly caught little sharks from the sea, and yet another round of the Sardinian goat cheeses. Now we are on the train for Bologna and Lugo, to pack up a few of our belongings unfit for the Way, before continuing on our journey.

And certainly one thing I have learned, like the many who have traveled before us, is to travel lightly, for He is my provision, one day at a time, my daily bread: blessing, health, peace and comfort, far beyond what the human mind can comprehend. As I say goodbye to this beloved Campostrini family, so kind, so generous, so open, who could have ever imagined?

He could, from the beginning of time.

And as Paul reminded Timothy: May you continue in what you have learned.

Holy, holy, holy

My hope is built on nothing less

Y Jehova sera nuestra Paz. Miqueas 5,5

Andad en el Espiritu. Galatas 5,16

La practica y testimonio de la Paz es tambien genoradora de esperanza para aquellos y aquellas que asi lo hacen, asi nos lo prometido Jesus en las bienaventuranzas: Dichosos los que trabajan por la Paz, porque seran llamados hijos de Dios.  Enrique Alva Callupe

My hope and peace is founded on the potent power of Jehovah Lord God,  the grace and mercy found in the blood of His Son Jesus Christ, and His Spirit within, by Whom I am called to walk each day, proclaiming the message of reconciliation. Then I will be called a child of God.

And yesterday I walked through the streets of Venice in a very golden, shimmering afternoon light. Through the original Jewish ghettos, across the foot bridge into the Moorish plazas for those involved in trade from exotic distances, into soaring gothic cathedrals and now modern hospitals and university dorms appropriated from ancient monasteries. And every beautifully crafted detail reminded me that we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. We, the endless, almost stifling stream of tourists...we, those pressed to television screens worldwide watching El Mundial World Cup, we, in this so ancient of towns established on these lagoon islands. That we may we be called the children of God.

The Lord's plans stand firm forever; His intentions can never be shaken.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Waiting for our last Spanish train

Cuanto esta lejos el oriente del occidente, hizo alejar de nosotros nuestros rebelliones. Salmo 103,12

Dios estaba en Cristo reconciliando consigo al mundo, no tomandoles en cuenta a los hombres sus pecados, y nos encargo a nosotros la palabra de la reconciliacion. 2 Corintios 5,9

Cantad, cristianos por doquier, con dulce melodia, load al Dios de gran saltando de alegria, al don precioso que nos dio cuando a gran precio nos compro. A voces celebramos. Martin Lutero

I sense that I am entering a new stage of my Way with Jesus. For many years my heart verse has been Psalm 84, which has focused on the journey and His provision, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the pilgrimage to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Bitterness, they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.”

But I step from this comforting, but well, individual, even self-centric walk, shifting with great joy to my, to our, great calling: 

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

From now on therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation."

And now I have a much bigger and better sense of this beloved world that was reconciled to God through Christ, the precious gift by which He bought us. As far as the east is from the west, He has put away our rebellions. Sing, Christians, with sweet melody, with a great leap of joy, together we celebrate, and controlled by His love, we no longer living for ourselves, rather we carry this true message of reconciliation to the ends of the earth.

Holy, holy, holy.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

May the peace of God be with you

Porque de todo corazon ofrecieron a Jehova voluntariamente. 1 Cronicas 29,9

Asimismo, hermanos, os hacemos saber la gracia de Dios que se ha dado a las iglesias de Macedonia; que en grande prueba de tribulacion, la abundancia de su gozo y su profunda probreza abundaron en riquezas de su generosidad. 2 Corintios 8,1-2

Señor, con frequencia solo bastan pequenos gestos para hacer feliz a mis hermanos y hermanas, pero a pesar de su simplicidad, son los gestos mas valiosos ante tus ojos. Maestro del amor, ensename tu hermosa arte de dar abnegadamente con alegria y con el corazon.

The cathedral bells ring every half hour all night long in Santiago. And seagulls call as they circle the two towers. And the quiet sounds of a city, glasses tinkling and soft laughter rise and are gathered outside the open attic window on our fifth floor room of this little pension, La Santa Cristina.

And as I listened throughout the peaceful night, I considered what lies ahead, the road back home, as the priest yesterday carefully reminded the hundreds of pilgrims before him, the important Way,  the Be perfect as I am perfect Way of following Jesus, I wondered what that would look like in Tucson, Arizona, and my world of checklists and schedules and Important Things To Do.

And one of the things I read this morning was a wonderful article in Leadership Magazine, by Gordon McDonald, a man made wise through his own pilgrimage on The Quiet Strength of a Peaceful Leader.

Peace is an oft-used word in and beyond the Bible. In its largest sense, it describes any system in which there is order, justice, and security. The Romans talked about peace (Pax Romana), but their system was sustained through violence and intimidation. The Jews of Jerusalem had their own concepts of peace: a kingdom that mirrored the ancient reign of David. These were concepts of peace imposed from the outside of a person.

But then Jesus came, speaking of a peace that took root inside a person. This peace was impervious to any form of opposition. You can do away with the body, Jesus said, but never the soul. His was a radical idea: that all things start in a person's heart.

The monastics made this point with a story: A cruel warlord confronted an old monk, commanding the monk to bow to him, but the monk refused.

"Do you know who I am?" bellowed the warlord. "I am he who has the power to run you through with a sword."

"And do you know who I am?" responded the monk. "I am he who has the power to let you run me through with a sword."

This old man, unbowed, was peaceful from his core. He operated out of an ordered heart.

Jesus said his peace was not compatible with the "world's" view of peace (John 14:27). He created a movement whose trademarks were humility, compassion, mercy, and a breaking down of barriers that traditionally separated people. And this movement needed peaceful leaders.

And lest I feel overwhelmed by it all, the longings of my heart that I believe are His longings as well, I am to remember, He calmed the storm with but one word.

Paul referred to this as "the peace of Christ," and he urged Colossian Christ-followers to reorient themselves around this trait.

"My peace I give you … don't let your hearts be troubled," Jesus said to the disciples. When Christ's peace prevailed, one's instinct to hate, to fear, to dominate, to grasp and control was arrested. In fact, one of the premier evidences that Jesus was truly Lord of a person's life (or a group's life, for that matter) was that his way of peace effectively overcame trouble in one's heart, in one's relationships, and in one's connection with God.

We should not confuse the peace of Christ with niceness, or feeling good, or conflict-avoidance. The peaceful Jesus was hardly a wimp. The Jesus that wreaked havoc on the Temple money-launderers was justifiably furious. The weeping Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus was deeply moved over the loss of a friend. The courageous Jesus, ignoring his outraged critics, visited the home of Zachaeus because he wished to redeem a corrupt man.

"Blessed are the peacemakers," the Savior taught. "Go in peace," he said to a healed woman. "Peace," he shouted at a threatening storm. To more than a few, he said, "Peace be with you." Wherever he went, he took his fresh idea of human order with him.

Brother Lawrence understood this: "The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament."

The point: peaceful leaders are not risk-averse. They have a vision of a new way of life, and they live it, and they offer it to others.

One of the (many) gripping moments from C. S. Lewis is found in Prince Caspian, when Lucy thinks she sees Aslan the lion up ahead, beckoning her to follow Him, but the others don't believe her, so they spend long arduous hours going nowhere, on nothing of value. Aslan wakes her up that night, and speaks to her:

“But what would have been the good?"

Aslan said nothing.

"You mean," said Lucy rather faintly, "that it would have turned out all right – somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?"

"To know what would have happened, child?" said Aslan. "No. Nobody is ever told that."

"Oh dear," said Lucy.

"But anyone can find out what will happen," said Aslan. "If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me – what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.

And that is all I am told, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." The disciples did not have a clue where it would lead, but they dropped their nets and followed Him.

I listened (some) to a great podcast of Nicole's on one of those long hard days, about what it means to be a disciple in the Middle Eastern culture. Disciples left it all, no compromise. We cannot be friends with the world and friends with Jesus. The gentle but firm priest from yesterday smiled broadly as he explained, we have to leave it all, all of the wrongs done us, all of the excuses, all of our very good reasons and ideals, and follow Him. Because of the joy.

Because of the joy set before Him, He laid it all down. Gladly. And with joy, Francis of Assisi dropped his robes. Their nets, his robes, my cluttered life.

And the priest added, that is the only way we can change the world.

McDonald ends with a quote from Oswald Chambers: The people who influence us most are not those who buttonhole us ... but those who live their lives like the stars in heaven and the lilies in the field: peacefully, simply, and unaffectedly. These are the lives that mold us.

My peace I give you, let not your heart be troubled.

The chimes are ringing yet again. Morning has broken.

Billowing clouds of incense

What is a pilgrim?

This is the question Nicole asked, as we settled into shaded nooks with a cafe con leche or a cup of tinto with people from every country and from every story.

And it is my question now, as I share a tiny table, two grapefruit, and the ubiquitous cafe con leche with a beautiful German girl who wears her art rather than hang it on the wall. She is in the light now, after we prayed Revelations 3:20 together this morning. Never again alone, always in His love, forever and ever along The Way of life.

And from my seat, with the ever appropriate bar background soundtrack of How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You, I am watching pilgrim after pilgrim turn the corner into the last little stretch to the Cathedral steps and there is no way to explain the joy radiating from every tired step. A sturdy Asian with his Jack Daniel's t-shirt, an obvious mother and son biking combo, the German with blond dreads, the bearded guy in a red and black plaid shirt, the older woman, sort of my age, leaning heavily on her staff and big bandaged feet, but that same radiance.

A pilgrim is someone who decided that, alone, on his own strength and plans and schedules, I Can't Get No Satisfaction, and he leaves it all, and turns toward Celestial City.

And most of the answers to my question, Why did you decide to walk The Way, are along the lines of, "I just knew I had to do it." There was the Spanish brother and sister whose other sister had been walking El Camino one week at a time, each vacation, and when she died suddenly, they quit their jobs and walked out their doors. As I hugged the sister goodbye, she whispered over and over, "I believe." The young free runner who in one day decided, bought a bike and a pack, and headed up The Way backwards. At the alburgue dinner Nicole had a word for the Dutchman, something about a lighthouse shining strong through the years, who began weeping and said, "because you have said this, I know you know Truth, and I will tell you why I am on this Way.” The cynical businessman next to muttered with an awed whispered, “An angel is here with us,” as every single person at the table filled with bean soup, crusty bread, and tinto bottles, watched this man transform before our eyes, dropping his heavy burden at the cross of Jesus. And in the morning, Nicole flagged a blessing and prayed with him again as he picked up his staff and adjusted his now light pack, and he left, tucking one of my father's little Bibles into his pocket, declaring with peace and joy, "I now know Truth." And the cyclist who rode with us for a morning, on his second Camino to remember how God had met him the first time, a broken drunken lost soul, and given him a wonderful wife. He never wanted to forget Him who he met on this Way.

Now a group of teenagers all wearing matching red shirts has turned the corner, and are soaking their feet in the shell fountain. And there is a kinda crazy looking old lady with a baseball cap hugging a black hipster with tight red pants and a good camera. And the very confident soul striding past with mirrored sunglasses, not even needing to ask directions. But the two Swedish girls pause, just to make sure.

And I, with Nicole's open Bible and journal in front of me was just interrupted in my thoughts by a man from New Zealand with such a thick accent I could barely understand him.

"Excuse me. Do you speak English? May I sit here? I want to tell someone what just happened to me on El Camino. I met God.

And he told me his story, although I couldn't exactly understand everything. And he was one who only believed the material world and his own hard work. He would hear people speak of spiritual things, and he wouldn't understand it, or would think that they were just lazy or weak, incapable of doing life on their own. And just on the top of the last mountain before Santiago, El Monte de Gozo, he met God.

But now what do I do? How can this change my life? How will things not be the same?

And I had the great joy of reading to him the invitation of Jesus: Behold I stand at the door and knock. And a lovely young professional Spanish pilgrim joined in the conversation. Only she only spoke Spanish, and he English, so became focused on the translating, and not the actual ideas, when in the middle of a sentence I realized that she said that my face was so radiant that it was obvious that I had been with Jesus.

And that was my prayer from what seems so long ago, that in spite of my tangled syntax and my clumsy ways, that they might say of me, "She has been with Jesus."

And I found Nicole at the Pilgrim's Mass in the great Cathedral Santiago a Compostela, and somehow the German girl found us as well. And together we worshiped. We asked forgiveness of sins, we greeted one another in peace, thousands from all over the world, and we gave offerings. And we heard that following Jesus is not about saying a few words or a special prayer, but He has called us to be perfect even as He is perfect. And this is not an easy Way, but He is beside us each step. As we live a life of forgiving our enemies, and blessing those who curse us, even as He has forgiven us. And we shared communion, the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine, Do this in remembrance of Me.

And the famous incense burner was lifted up by six strong young men, representing our prayers of thanksgiving and worship, and an iridescent glory sifted down through the crowds. A weeping and hugging and radiant crowd.

Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.

Seraphim and cherubim, all the saints adore Thee
God in three persons
Blessed Trinity

Monday, June 16, 2014

A curious thing is that all of the stop signs are in English

No os amedrenteis por temor de ellos, ni os conturbeis, sino santificado a Dios el Señor en vuestros corazones. 1 Pedro 3,14-15

Cristo esta conmigo, !Que consolacion! Su presencia aleja todo mi temor; tengo la promesas de mi Salvador: no te dejara nunca; siempre contigo estoy.

It really wasn't in our pretty tight scheduled plan to be riding up the biggest mountain on the road in the middle of the day with an empty water bottle under a bright blue sky and a blustery wind that kept blowing off my hat, but it didn't matter. With every pedal stroke I was thinking, "No pain! No pain! No pain!"

In the morning I had made a mild attempt to request a Sabbath rest for my throbbing thighs since nothing else had brought even the slightest relief: the carefully coached stretches, the icy sea baths, the hot, hot showers, ibuprofen in regular doses, nothing. This steel grip was my constant companion. But we decided to try an hour or two and to see how that would go, especially since the first part was along a stunning sea coast.

And things weren't so bad this morning, singing over and over, until I forgot the words, because things hurt pretty much:
Holy, holy, holy
Lord God Almighty
Early in the morning
My song shall rise to Thee

So as we stood at the bottom of a hill staring at yet another long, twisty cobbled stone road to the church, we hesitated. Should we release our plans to try and attend mass, and just stay on El Camino?

But, no in my heart, I knew up that hill we must go, whether it was a dutiful offering of my decimo, or an empty water bottle, or a prodding from the Lord, so up the hill we went. And the gold-covered altarpiece reaching up to the stone arches was a perfect meditation, as I knelt down on the creaking board:
Seraphim and cherubim,
All the saints adore You
God in three persons,
Blessed Trinity

But when we went to the back room, to get our credential stamped, the old, very old priest, fussed at us: you must go the the cathedral. That is where all the pilgrims go, this is nothing, a mere parochial church. And even when I mildly protested that we were very humble pilgrims, and this had been a wonderful place to pray, he shook his trembling finger at us, so we made plans to go down and yet another up, right after a cup of café con leche, right next to the little church and the park.

A man led in his friend into the bar for coffee as well. Actually, he had to heft him up on his shoulder and carry him, because of his leg, which sort of looked like someone had wrung out a twisted wet towel. And my heart knotted up as I watched. And I almost got up to pray for him, but not quite. And as they left, I knew I had to follow them out to in front of the church. "Excuse me. If you don't mind I would like to pray for your leg. The Lord God Almighty would like to show His great love and power by healing you in the name of His son Jesus Christ." They nodded, I knelt down on the stones, prayed, and they smiled and nodded a little teary-eyed, and headed off to church, and I back to my coffee. But a few minutes later, the man rushed in and said over and over, "Thank you, thank you! God bless you." And I smiled and nodded, and we headed over the big cathedral built in the thirteenth century, and there was a fruit stand out front, and a bar, and we decided to split a sausage and potato breakfast before heading on up the fabled hardest climb of El Camino.

And at the table next to us, was a nice man with his wife and son, enjoying the beautiful morning, except he had crutches and a huge ugly red swollen leg. And just before hopped back onto the bikes, I had to once again kneel down at his feet and pray for him. And both he and his wife were teary-eyed and smily at the same time, and we waved good-bye and they said, "Buen Camino," like everyone does.

But after we rode down those cobbled stones, I noticed. No pain. At all. None. And I kept waiting for the clench of death, but no, nothing, no pain. And even though we headed down the wrong path, and ended up doing a huge loop, retracing our route, it did not matter. No pain. No pain.

And as we turned up that great big long mountain, I sang "Holy, holy," and wondered about that kneeling and wondering when it was that God healed me, and "Drats, I should have asked those guys if they were totally healed too," when suddenly a white car drove past us, turned around and stopped, and the nice man with the crutches hopped out of the car, and threw them on the ground and ran across the street, and said, "I had to see you again, and to say thank you!"

And his was a long convoluted story, about spending long years seeking wealth and fame, and then he had this terrible accident, and some disease that left half his body numb, and he had been going to this Hindu master, who had been having him read the Life and Times of Jesus Christ, and had told him that soon two strangers were going to pray for his healing, and when I prayed for him, this huge surge of peace had filled him, and he knew his life was changed forever. And Nicole prophesied over him, that God was going to use him mightily, and there kneeling by the side of the road, we prayed for wisdom and truth to guide him in his path, and I ran across the ancient highway and hugged his wife who was crying happy tears, and I gave her my email, because he wanted to keep us up with all of the changes in his life. And it was his birthday, that day, the fifteenth of June, and this was a wonderful gift from God, a new life.

And as I slid my foot into the toe grip before heading on up the steep incline, I realized that more than just the pain in my body had evaporated like the morning mist. My heart and soul were also soaring free in the breeze.

Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.

And this is only the first third of our day. The rest, well, was also amazing. More to come.

Holy holy

Holy, Holy, Holy. Lord God Almighty; all of the earth is filled with Your Glory. Isaiah 6,3

Y metere en el fuego a la tercera parte, y los fundire como se funde la plata, y los probare come se prueba el oro. El invocara mi nombre, y yo lo oire. Zacarias 13,9

Pablo escribe: nuestra esperanza respecto de vosostros es firmer pues sabemos que asi como sois companeros en las afflicciones, tambien lo sois en la consolacion. 2 Corintios 1,7

Señor,Te doy gracias porque a traves de las pruebas, Tu me perfeccionas. Soy como el oro que se refina en el ardor de Tu amor, porque solo Tu amor puede buscar perfeccionarme. Solo Te pido, Dios de misericordia, que me des entendimiento para que cuando llluegan las afflicciones, yo sea consolado y al mismo tiempo preprarado a consolar. Marisol Ale Diaz

Yesterday, friend Mary who just finished a week on El Camino marveled that I had any strength left to write. I don't. Mostly I am trying to make it up the next hill with just a trace of praise under my breath. I am grateful for a three-week graduate class in writing at the University of Arizona that starts the day I after I get back, which will give me bunches of time to sort through this experience so that my life may indeed be transformed; may He indeed give me understanding.

And I do know that for one thing, I will be packing away a great deal more compassion and consolation into my backpack home, along with all of my damp, smelly clothes and as yet, hundreds and hundreds of unviewed Go-pro photos and videos. I think I have a much bigger understanding of His beloved world, and the tenderness with which He holds each one of His children. We have received so much unmerited mercy.

And this is our last night on the coast. And the surf is surging outside our open window, which of course is such a timeless reminder of history, His story. Today, as we turn south into the plains, we have our last two biggest mountains to climb. But that last little lady who gave us directions told us over and over about Playa de Catedral, and how people really liked it, even on the internet, and it was only two kilometers off our path, about.

It is a good thing. The ocean always reminds me of His strong presence that surrounds me and holds me up. Yesterday, when Nicole was asking an Italian guy why he was doing the Camino, it said that it was freedom, freedom from everything that distracts me from His love.

Holy, Holy, Holy. Lord God Almighty; all of the earth is filled with Your Glory. Isaiah 6,3

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The refreshing fog is of His hand as well.

Nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 1 Corinthians 10

Because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the Way.
Luke 1:79

Jehova hace a los vientos sus mensajeros, y a las flamas de fuego sus ministros. Salmos 104,4

Y siendo arrebatado la nave, y no pudiendo poner proa al viento, nos abandonamos a el, y nos dejamos llevar. Hechos 27, 15

?Sopla el viento en contra nuestra o hacen cortapisas en nuestro Camino? A veces Dios nos pone obstaculos para mostrarnos un mejor Camino, un Camino de bendicion que nos lleva a El.


Yesterday we crossed the halfway point of our Camino, as well as multiple mountains, again and again, the rhythm of patient overcoming up, and the delight of sweeping down through speckled light drifting through ancient trees, or past rolling vineyards or overlooking sparkling beaches. Yesterday was the Northern California costal day.

And when we limped into Santa Marina last night, everyone was impressed and shook their heads with wonder that we had made it from Ovieda, and they didn't even know the half of it, all the yellow arrow paths we took, winding hither and thither along cow paths for two hours to come out only 2 km further along in our journey. And two flat tires. I hope this destroyed ship is not my bicycle, which has overall proven very faithful, but, well, we've had some bang-ups as well.

But it doesn't matter, really, because He is faithful through the winds and the flames. And I have committed to follow Him. No matter what the cost. Which is a scary thing to say, as I have lived and learned in the past.

And today may my eyes be fixed on Jesus, and not distracted by the waves.

Last night, I was a little teary, walking that old flat-tired bike up the last steep hill: Dear Lord God Almighty, be my provision.

And I rounded the bend, and Nicole was chatting with an old guy by the side of the road, Enrique. And later she told me that God told her to stop, that he was our angel. And he started the conversation, "You must stay in Santa Maria." And we did.

We are alone in this massive silent pension, in sharp contrast to the minimalist stop last night, quietly slipping into a dark room of sleeping bodies. Across the street we were served and served food and drink: a bottle of water, a bottle of wine, a tuna and apple and fake crab meat salad, fried ham slices, mounds of salty French fries, and chocolate torte, and we ate it all, after nice hot showers, and went to bed.

And we are planning an early start, with our breakfast already to carry with us, but it is still dark outside, the fog has rolled in again.

Dear Lord, I lay this day before You. Carry us through, sheltered in Your wings, through wind and fire, I trust You. A road of blessing, because You are the One who carries us.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The church bells are ringing just as we head up the next mountain

Si es que habeis gustado la benignidad del Señor. 1 Pedro 2:3

Sacareis con gozo aguas de las fuentes de la salvacion. Isaias 12:3

Y el que tiene sed, venga, y el que queria, tome del agua de la gratuitamente. Apocalipsis 22:17

Indeed yesterday we enjoyed the benevolence of The Lord. So much of our time is spent wandering around in circles, seeking the Way. Around the ever-so-simple convent breakfast of cafe con leche and pound cake, a Spaniard with a guidebook offered to go with us. And while I did leave an armload of pretty important stuff unpacked, it was a benevolent day of rolling hills and trees overarching and more little gardens than Heather and Alan could ever dream of.

And late that night, although it is still light at ten, when Nicole and I unloaded off of the train at Ovieda without a clue, a second guide stepped in, Joe who left the Bronx twenty years ago to teach in this undiscovered paradise, also left his conversation, and hopped on his bicycle and led us through yet more winding cobblestoned streets to the pilgrim hostel that locks its doors at ten, but didn't.

And yesterday noonish we made our way up to the top of yet another steep hill, and were welcomed to the hostel of well, Drats, I forgot its name, but it is legendary on the Way of the North, yet another rose-draped farmhouse where we were greeted with pitchers of chilled water and loaves of bread and peach jam and cafe con leche for Nicole and me, and diet Coke for Ishmael, and a priestly blessing for all of us, and last night steamy hot water washed away the sticky soreness of the day, and once again, I experienced the free grace of God, with joy.

A pilgrimage is not about giving, but humbly receiving, again and again.

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Even if you leave your jacket, the bag of toiletries and your water bottle in the dining room, having made a quick sprint up the stairs up to leave little Bibles on the table.

The sunrise cannot push its way through a thick wet mist that should make for a refreshing ride.