Sunday, June 28, 2015

And the blue river line on the horizon leads to worlds to be conquered.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

To say with all that we have, think, feel, and are, "God exists" is the most world-shattering statement that a human can make...Because when God exist, all that is flows from God...However, as soon as I say "God exists," my existence no longer can remain in the center, because the essence of the knowledge of God reveals my own existence as deriving its total being from God's. That is the true conversion experience. I no longer let the knowledge of my existence be the center from which I derive, project, deduct, or intuit the existence of God. I suddenly or slowly find my own existence revealed to me in and through the knowledge if God. Then it becomes real for me that I can love myself and my neighbor only because God has loved me first.

The life-converting experience is not the discovery that I have choices to make that determine the way I live out my existence but the answer that my existence itself is not in the center. Once I "know" God, that is, once I experience God's love as the love in which all my human experiences are anchored, I can only desire one thing: to be in that love. "Being" anywhere else, then, is shown to be illusory and eventually lethal. Henri Nouwen, Gracias!

Last night Nicole posted a GoPro video shot of Andres as he met us last year on that road coming up out of Mondoñedo. And just this moment, just as I finished rewatching it,  I got a message from Andres who was watching it as well. And as I sit here on a balcony overlooking a bright blue Lisbon with just a hint of breeze, one cannot help but know that time and space are artificial and even false lenses with which to view life.

Lisbon still celebrates their fifteenth century period of world dominance in every roundabout, on so many balcony and light post flourishes and in the beautiful gleaming stone mosaics of every sidewalk through the center of town. This is who they are, a bold and courageous people willing always to face the unknown. Still. This is what is true.

And my mind is so full of short-sighted lies. With my small, present moment in the center. And slowly, ever-so-slowly I am learning to Be, to be in His love. And when a group of four very tired pilgrims steps off of an eleven-hour bus ride with Saran Wrap and plastic garbage bag bundled bikes into a huge city suffering from a subway strike near midnight, and even the bathrooms in the station are locked up tightly, one longs to Be in What Is True. And not what is perceived. And a ragged looking man with a big rosary around his neck drew us a rather complicated map of how to first go to the hostel to drop off the boys and then a shortcut to Wilson and Fernanda's apartment. Sort of a shortcut. And the guy at the hostel desk kept giving us sort of encouraging but conflicting directions over the phone. And so did all of the myriad folks that I stopped on the street again and again for further clarification. The main thing is that everyone kept shouting at us with great enthusiastic Portuguese how very easy it all was.

And now I can truthfully say I rode my bike in Portugal as well. Up and down. Up and down.

And it is easy if you just take it one step on the almost marblesque (spellcheck hates it when I make up words) mosaics at a time. One more hill. (Hills are nothing now.) One more massive statue filled with boats and globes in one more roundabout. One more tree-lined street filled with taxis. And at the end there is the very friendly hostel host standing there waving his arms and a little table set with sheep cheese and Brie and bread and tuna salad and white wine on a balcony at Wilson's and Fernanda's elegant apartment.

For the joy set before them. This is what is true.

To say with all that we have, think, feel, and are, "God exists" is the most world-shattering statement that a human can make. Ah, there's the rub. The singlemindedness. Practicing the Presence. All.

But I have a big huge piles of Joshua stone memorials in the middle of each roundabout. This is who I am. Not in the center. He is. With His power and love, outstretched.

And we are pretty near the airport so planes rip overhead every so often to remind me that I am boarding one back to Tucson tomorrow morning. And I sure don't know what lies beyond the next curve. But what I wrote to Andres this morning was that I wanted to pack up his light- and love- filled singlemindedness into my bag. And although I have so many French countryside and Spanish sea coast and Portuguese night river walks and Italian pizzas from a firewood oven in a patio filled with sparkly lights and friends memories,  what burns most brightly is that joy which slices through any and all dismal fog with what is true. To live what I know to be true.

God exists.

Friday, June 26, 2015

At rest, even as the huge bus roars to a start once again.

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

I very much believe that the core moment of Jesus' public life was the baptism in the Jordan, when Jesus heard the affirmation, "You are my beloved on whom my favor rests." That is the core experience of Jesus. He is reminded in a deep way of who he is. The temptations in the desert are temptations to move him away from his spiritual identity. He was tempted to believe he was someone else: you are the one who can turn stone into bread. You are the one who can jump from the temple. You are the one who can make others bow to your power. Jesus said, "No, no, no. I am the Beloved from God." I think his whole life is continually claiming that identity in the midst of everything. There are times in which he is praised, when he is despised or rejected, but he keeps saying, " Others will leave me alone, but my Father will not leave Me alone. I am the beloved Son of a God. I am the hope found in that identity.

Prayer, then, is listening to that identity- to the One who calls you the Beloved. My life is not rooted in the world, and the things the world gives me. My life is rooted in my spiritual identity. Whatever we do, we have to go back regularly to that place of core identity. Henri Nouwen, "Parting Words"

And we have a delay in Portugal, waiting for the bus from Madrid, and the return to the other world begins to shift into focus. I was up at six this morning undergoing the ever-humbling task of videoing myself answering complicated teaching questions, then uploading them to YouTube as part of an interview process. I did my best to ensure that they are not accessible to the general public, let me tell you. And I have a Viber phone call scheduled with another administrator for later this afternoon, as I am spending now eleven hours on a bus with wifi. And the beat goes on.

To a different drummer.

May He be my pulse. Gentle, steady, low, yet strong.

And Andres gave me a rosary. And I am wearing it as a reminder of "for the joy set before Him." I know there is power in the resurrection, but there is so much tangible love demonstrated in those outstretched arms.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

A reflection from the last hostel window, overlooking the plaza of Compostela.

Is there a way to nurture that faith within us?  The answer is yes: it is the way of poverty, the way that Jesus himself shows us as He moves to the cross. Jesus consistently refuses the way of success, power, influence, and celebrity. Always, he chooses the way of weakness, powerlessness, compassion, and obscurity-the way of the poor.

In the midst of the world, but hidden from its view, something very new, very tender, and very fragile can be born. When such a new birth takes place in and among us, we will recognize it, even though we lack the words to express it fully. It is the work if the Holy Spirit, the Spirit from above. It is the greatest gift a human being can receive, a gift to be gently held, carefully protected, and patiently led to full maturity. Henri Nouwen, "Reborn from Above"

So it was raining this morning, and Andres and Mercedes kept peering out of the window and offering words of experience and thus, wisdom. David was still in bed, savoring the first day of summer vacation. And with all of the green tea and chocolates and warning shakes of heads, Tracy and were very willing to doze under the blankets Andres had tucked under our chins.

But at last we had to head up through the very thick, very damp fog. So thick, in fact that the national highway had been closed and all of that traffic was being poured into our humble regional roadway. And we head uphill for a long, long time, our bodies rebellious but our hearts full, reflecting on new birth, and what we had just seen.

And those 47 kilometers seemed long. But we made it into the albergue of last year with the big shelves for boots. And there were no visions or conversations. A quiet night of consideration, in the midst of the rumble of many pilgrims.

And it is possible that we will make it into Santiago tomorrow, although I am thinking about staying on the Mountain of Joy. And so I spent a lot of time reflecting on this long ride, its purpose and impact. And the initial goal of Brandon Time sort of evaporated, although I do hope seeds of friendship have been sown deeply. And my prayers for freedom, joy, love and vocation are still intangible, much like that dense fog of yesterday, where we could not see either where we had been, nor where we were going.

But, dear Lord God Almighty, I pray that something very new, albeit very tender, has been born, a fresh work of the Holy Spirit in my life. A gift to be carefully led to maturity, a well-watered tree planted by Your river, fruitful and strong, vibrant and whole.

And I read a post from Nicholas about no pain in freedom. And one can parse words and argue definitions, but what spoke to me is the joy in singlemindedness.


And we rolled into the plaza in front of Santiago de Campostela yesterday at three. And those last 87 km were steep ups and downs, even after the fabled hardest climb of El Norte, but it didn't matter; my mantra was "no pain in freedom."

And all along the way were memorials to His past faithfulness, the ancient tree in Baamondo, the pausing point on the highway where Andres knelt in the road, the roundabout where the three bumbling pilgrims comforted me, life is full of Joshua Stones. He is faithful. And nothing else matters.

And today I will confess my lack of singlemindedness. And attend the Mass of the Pilgrims. And continue the way that lies ahead, with the joy set before me.

But, dear Lord God Almighty, I pray that something very new, albeit very tender, has been born, a fresh work of the Holy Spirit in my life. A gift to be carefully led to maturity, a well-watered tree planted by Your river, fruitful and strong, vibrant and whole.

One last cup of coffee before we head up and up.

How can we describe the spiritual rebirth of which Jesus speaks to Nicodemus? An adequate description is impossible, precisely because this rebirth I'd beyond our intellectual and emotional grasp.

As to what spiritual rebirth is, however,me can say that persons reborn in the Spirit are characterized by their singlemindedness. They have only one desire to do God's will in all things, or - to put it in Jesus' words to Nicodemus - to"do the truth" and thus to "come out into the light so what they are doing may plainly appear as done in God" (John 3:21). They are so caught up in God's love that everything else can only receive its meaning and purpose in the context of that love. They ask only one question: "what is pleasing to the Spirit of God?" And as soon as they have heard the sound of the Spirit, they follow its promptings even when it upsets their friends, disturbs their environment, and confuses their admirers. They believe unhesitatingly in Jesus, the Son of God, who was sent into the world "not to condemn the world, but at the world, through Him might be saved." Their faith is so deeply rooted that the are un afraid - not only of other people's opinions, but even of God's judgements, because their rebirth has brought them into the light. Henri Nouwen, "Reborn from Above"

Yep, this is my next little meditation from my Henri Nouwen book, and well, he must have met Andres Vega who lives in Monedanado, Spain.  An adequate description is impossible, but this is a man reborn in the Spirit, who is characterized by his singlemindedness, whose only desire is to do God's will in all things.

On that road just a little over a year ago, that frightful road which heads straight up into the clouds that Tracy and I are riding up this morning, where he knelt to receive Jesus into his life, he announced that today, on his birthday, God had given the most unimaginable gift ever, a new life.

And no one in this beautiful town of 2,000 can believe he is the same man. And He is like the demonized man who once healed, Christ sent back to his home to declare all that God has done for him.  And Andres lives and breathes and speaks light. And every one calls him The Pilgrim, because he has let his hair and beard grow long, and he uses a walking stick. And his rotted flesh leg is now clean and beautiful and pain free. And it has been a process, walking in this light of forgiveness and reconciliation.

And every single moment of that day in the sun of enjoying a birthday breakfast with his family and mother-in-law at their favorite restaurant in front of the cathedral has become memorialized in their minds. The two Americans wheeling their bikes into the plaza. The daughter who smiled and said "hola" and who hesitated slightly like she wanted to say more. The mother who went down the steps to her bike, paused in prayer, and then headed back up the stairs to kneel and say, The Lord God wants to show you His power and love by healing you in the name of Jesus."

And the pain disappeared. Four years of piercing pain lifted. From an infection after a mining accident. And the impossible restoration. And the neurologist announcing that he did not know, he could not understand how this could be. And the recovery of the left side of his body numb and helpless from the stroke.

But what has really been transformed by the light of the Spirit is his heart. He had been a driven man, focused in filling the hole in his heart with money and things, every moment accounted for and squeezed. And all this has been released into the care of His loving Father who provides just what is necessary. And this moment with these two Americans is what he needed, to step into faith.

And this is the sweetest family imaginable, Mercedes the nurse, David the eleven-tear-old soccer player, and the mother-in-law who can't stop hugging us, and their friends, everyone loves to tell the story. And mostly these days, Andres talks to the pilgrims, all the pilgrims who walk or ride up the cobbled street to visit this ancient church and eat pilgrim cake. Well, he doesn't talk, he listens. All they want is someone to listen to their story, so that is his gift. And he tells them if his own Camino that he is walking every day. And some of them believe him, and some if them not, but who is he to judge?

And now I must head on up that hill.

But may yesterday be likewise an Ebenezer memorial for the rest of my life, of the power and love of our glorious beyond understanding, God.

The days are beginning to blur into a smear of color, cowbells, and baguettes

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as  l I have kept  m my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” John 11:8-13

Real prayer brings us closer to our fellow human beings. Prayer is the first and indispensable discipline of compassion. In the intimacy of prayer, God is revealed to us as the One who loves all the members of the human family just as personally and uniquely as God loves me. Therefore, a growing intimacy with God deepens our sense of responsibility for others. It evokes in us an always increasing desire to bring the whole world with all its suffering and pains around the divine fire in our heart and to share the revitalizing heat with all who want to come. Henri Nouwen, Compassion

And I prayed with Leo before we left in the morning. That he might know this divine love of God. Leo, the nineteen-year-old from Milan with dreads who trims tall trees, but is really a wanderer. But he rescued this dog who was being abused and it is really hard being a pilgrim with a dog because it's hard to find places to stay and now his dog has a hurt leg and he is not sure what he is going to do, but he is going to hang out at the church and see what happens. And Nolina, the Buddhist philosophy major kept hugging me because of the light in my eyes, and she saw it when I was scrubbing clothes on the pila and knew she had to talk to me, so we talked long into the night, and she hugged me again as I left, and we will see each other again.

And we rocked 100 kilometers yesterday, up and down. Even including another tire fixing by Brandon. And we ate breakfast after riding two hours at a place I ate dinner last year, and of course the tiny woman with the big hug remembered me, because, well, not so many tall American women ride through. And last year she took very tender care of me because I had a rough ride and flipped over a guard rail and had a couple of flats and I was a bloody mess. Maybe she remembered that too.

And the boys split off just before Ribadeo, to try a couple of days on El Camino Primitivo, and we walked our bikes across the long, long bridge and are staying in an odd little hotel next to the church and we are the only people here, but we ate a pilgrim's dinner across the street with a statistics professor from Madison who is walking the Camino with his son who just graduated with his degree in aerospace engineering. And we talked long into the night. About miracles because tomorrow we are staying with Andres and Mercedes his wife, and their little boy in Mondonedo. And higher physics is opening the door to the unknown. And if one single miracle steps through even once, it breaks the materialistic paradigm. And they hugged us huge when they left, and I imagine I will see them again.

And in the middle of the conversation, Tracy smiled broadly at a sweet lady walking with an elderly gentleman, and the lady rushed over and started talking about how she was from Cuba and her father should have left her the family store but he didn't but abandoned his bed-ridden wife who needed to be bathed and turned and then the lady's husband died when he was forty-nine and left her with five children and now they all live here in Spain and she provides for them by caring for this old man and now she has to leave and give him his medications, but by the way her spine really hurts. So I prayed for her, and she hugged me even though she didn't come up to my waist.

And just as Tracy and I were ready to leave, two kids from Moscow sat next to us. And they are also biking the Camino. And she works for Microsoft running their online teaching English program and is a yoga instructor. And we talked about tomorrow because Andres was texting me, and I prayed that each of us would see His great power and love in these last three days of Camino. And their faces glowed with desire. And the guy reminded me of Igor in all of the best ways with inflections and word choices and shrugs, and we will see each other again and probably ride the same train to Lisbon on the twenty-seventh.

And the thing is, everyone of these people kept talking about the light in my eyes.  And I pray that it is the divine fire in my heart and that I will clearly share the revitalizing heat with all who want to come.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

And sometimes freshly washed laundry tussled in the wind are the most beautiful thing ever.

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Jude 20-21

Spiritually we are in God, in The Lord, at home in God. Our true identity is that we are God's children. It is from that perspective-God's perspective- that we perceive the world. We are called to see the world as God sees it; that is what theology is all about. Therefore, we are continually diagnosing the illusory quality of anything outside that perspective. The Road to Peace

Now I know that it is not I that pray, but the Spirit of God who prays in me. Indeed, when God's glory dwells in me, there is nothing too far away, nothing too painful, nothing too strange or too familiar that it cannot contain and renew by its touch. Every time I recognize the glory of God in me and give it space to manifest itself to me, all that is human can be brought there and nothing will be the same again. Once in a while I just know it: of course God hears my prayer. God prays in me and touches the whole world with love right here and now. At those moments all questions about "the social relevance of prayer, etc" seem dull and very unintelligent, and the silent prayer of the monks one of the few things that keeps some sanity in this world. Henri Nouwen, The Genesee Diary

Yesterday is the first time I remember when I asked someone if I could pray for her, she said no. She isn't very religious, so I said that I would hold her in my heart as I rode. And I did. And last night she found us and is sleeping in the same little cabin as we are in this crazy packed-full campsite that laughed and shouted way past the posted silence hours of midnight. And she is seeking quiet in her head. And has the biggest 38 kilo pile of stuff on her bike imaginable. May Abba Father be her rest.

And I don't understand prayer. But the LORD God Creator of the Universe does, and He told us to pray without ceasing.

 We are a pretty tired little team, but happy. I guess that is the thing about doing something hard, is that it is hard, but hopefully things are going on deep within each of us because of this experience. Moving beyond being tourists in this life of ours, into being pilgrims, with His perspective.

May I practice His presence all day long, up and down, press in, release.


And it was a press in sort of day, but glorious. His glory. His glory gleaming like one of Nicole's disco balls, brilliant, around and around. And sure there were a couple more flat tires and a little wandering from the path, and there were no clouds to run interference from the sun, but so many moments of joy, the conversation with the couple from New Zealand whose jazz musician daughter just moved to Tucson, with the pilgrim family on bicycles from Mexico, D.F., the nice guy who drove Tracy and her bike around and me and my bike around, whose son just got accepted to Berkeley. And Leo from Italy and Paulina from Spain and Nolin from Italy too as we sit in the sun watching our freshly scrubbed clothes wave in the sun. And share our groceries. And Celtic tunes are on someone's iTouch, which is perfect.

And once again, God's conversation with me has a lot to do with He is God. Trustworthy. Powerful. Faithful. And full of love for me His daughter.  And for the world. Each one His child. And may I speak His love, clearly and finishing my sentences. And the Korean guy sitting in the sun next to me and eating his vegetables doesn't know why he has been walking the Camino for fifty-three days. But His Father does; His Father who knows him by name.

Friday, June 19, 2015


“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit." Galatians 5:25

When we speak about the Holy Spirit, we speak about the breath of God breathing in us. The Greek word for "spirit" is pneuma, which means "breath." We are seldom aware of our breathing. It is so essential for life that we only think about it when something is wrong with it.

Perhaps the challenge of the Gospel lies precisely in the invitation to accept a gift for which we can give nothing in return. For the gift is the life breath of God, the Spirit poured out on us through Jesus Christ. This life breath frees us from fear and gives us new room to live. Those who live prayerfully are constantly ready to receive the breath of God and let their lives be renewed and expanded. Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

Well, I am aware of my breathing. When I fell whenever that was, so many days ago, I certainly cracked a couple or ribs on the other side of my chest. Not nearly so piercing as this spring, but I am indeed aware of every breath I take.

And the song of yesterday was "Every breath I take, I breath in You, Jesus." And something about "Waves of mercy, waves of grace. Everywhere I look, I see Your face. Your love has captured me. Oh my God, how can this be?"

And we are a tired team. It was a good day yesterday. But it was mostly proving that we could keep rolling, keep getting back on those bicycles and riding hill after hill.

Let me not so much step in the Spirit, rather roll in the Spirit all day long. Every move I make I move in You, Jesus. And I was thinking about Mexicali yesterday. And the joy came from living in complete freedom. Total release. Freedom. Joy. Love. Let it be.

Time for wake up call. Trying to find a balance between healing sleep and we have a very bright sunny day out there waiting for us that might call for a midday siesta in the shade. And the nice abuela who has opened up an albergue in her home washed and dried all of our clothes last night while we rode over to Nueva for dinner. And her granddaughter colored this great big poster for the wall of all the visions pilgrims might have on the way.

The days are beginning to smear into one blur of color, cowbells and baguettes.

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Jude 20-21

Spiritually we are in God, in The Lord, at home in God. Our true identity is that we are God's children. It is from that perspective-God's perspective- that we perceive the world. We are called to see the world as God sees it; that is what theology is all about. Therefore, we are continually diagnosing the illusory quality of anything outside that perspective. The Road to Peace

Now I know that it is not I that pray, but the Spirit of God who prays in me. Indeed, when God's glory dwells in me, there is nothing too far away, nothing too painful, nothing too strange or too familiar that it cannot contain and renew by its touch. Every time I recognize the glory of God in me and give it space to manifest itself to me, all that is human can be brought there and nothing will be the same again. Once in a while I just know it: of course God hears my prayer. God prays in me and touches the whole world with love right here and now. At those moments all questions about "the social relevance of prayer, etc" seem dull and very unintelligent, and the silent prayer of the monks one of the few things that keeps some sanity in this world. Henri Nouwen, The Genesee Diary

Yesterday is the first time I remember when I asked someone if I could pray for her, she said no. She isn't very religious, so I said that I would hold her in my heart as I rode. And I did. And last night she found us and is sleeping in the same little cabin as we are in this crazy packed-full campsite that laughed and shouted way past the posted silence hours of midnight. And she is seeking quiet in her head. And has the biggest 38 kilo pile of stuff on her bike imaginable. May Abba Father be her rest.

And I don't understand prayer. But the LORD God Creator of the Universe does, and He told us to pray without ceasing.

 We are a pretty tired little team, but happy. I guess that is the thing about doing something hard, is that it is hard, but hopefully things are going on deep within each of us because of this experience. Moving beyond being tourists in this life of ours, into being pilgrims, with His perspective.

May I practice His presence all day long, up and down, press in, release.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

I can hardly believe I just ate a whole plate of fried calamari.

The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit expresses our plea in a way that could never beput into words., and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what He means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God. Romans 8:26-27

Prayer is not what is done by us, but rather what is done by the Holy Spirit in us. 

When we speak about the Holy Spirit, we speak about the breath of God breathing in us.

God made a covenant with us. The word "covenant" means "coming together." God wants to come together with us. In many of the stories in the Hebrew Bible, we see that God appears as a God who defends us against or enemies, protects us against dangers, and guides us to freedom. God is God-for-us. When Jesus comes a new dimension of the convenient is revealed. In Jesus, God is born, grows to maturity, lives, suffers, and dies so we do. God is God-with-us. Finally, when Jesus leaves He promises the Holy Spirit. In the Holy Spirit, god reveals the full depth of the covenant. God wants to be as close to us as our breath. God wants to breathe in us, so that all that we say, think, and do is completely inspired by God. God is God-within-us. Thus God's covenant reveals how much He loves us. Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey.

And now the bells tolls for seven in the morning. Time to gently wake up my fellow pilgrims and prepare for today's journey. May I learn one day deeper what it means to breathe in Him.

Well, nine o'clock. Brandon tried a fancy thing of putting a dollar bill in RJ's tire to fill in the space where a tumorous bulge left gaping.

And it worked for a 25 km ride glorious hills down to the coast again, with a sort of frightening ridge of snow-capped mountains not too far in the distance glowering down at us. And then it popped. So Brandon pulled off his packs and is riding past San Vicente to the next town where these nice old people sitting in the sun said the was a bike shop. And I too am resting in the sun, next to a field full of mama cows and their babies, overlooking our next huge downhill, once Brandon arrives. Oops, I mean once he arrives without a tire and I hitchhike into a town in the opposite direction. After that I mean.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

On the wall is a painting: Señor, que des urban mi Soledad, para luego poder collaboration contigo, en la salvacion del mundo.

Jesus taught us, saying: ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, at once he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’ Mark 4:22-26

But if we have the discipline to stay put and not let these dark voices intimidate us, they will gradually lose their strength and recede into the background, creating space for the softer, gentler voices of light.

These voices speak of peace, kindness, gentleness, goodness, joy, hope, forgiveness, and, most of all, love. They may at first seem small and insignificant, and we may have a hard time trusting them. However, they are very persistent and they will grow stronger if we keep listening. They come from a very deep place and from very far. They have been speaking to us since before we were born, and they reveal to us that there is no darkness in the One who sent us into the world, only light. Henri Nouwen, Can You Drink the Cup

 O Lord, we come this morning Knee-bowed and body-bent Before thy throne of grace. O Lord—this morning— Bow our hearts beneath our knees, And our knees in the lonesome valley. We come this morning— Like empty pitchers to a full fountain, With no merits of our own. O Lord—open up a new window of heaven, And lean out far over the battlements of glory, And listen this morning. James Weldon Johnson

The name of the street we are on is Santo Espiritu, Holy Spirit. And it is a peaceful street, full of light and color and life and yet peace. And it led with just a few curves to this sanctuary of peace, this sixteenth century Casa de la Trinidad, run by the nuns Trinitarias.

And already, even before the edge of dawn, a gentle organ plays down one of these long winding corridors. Very softly. And just now, soft voices are joining in.

Another day.

Last year, this is where I left our entire bag of toiletries, when I ran back upstairs to leave one of my dad's little Bibles. And we did just fine with just a toothbrush purchased at the corner farmacia.

Like empty pitchers to a full fountain. O Lord-open up a new window of heaven.

God is faithful, 100%.

“I will appoint a time,” says God; “I will judge with equity . . .” Psalm 75:2

"Not I live, but He lives in me."

Silence means rest, rest of body and mind, in which we become available for God. This is very threatening. It is like giving up control over our actions and thoughts, allowing something creative to happen not by us but to us. Silence is that moment in which we not only stop the discussion with others but also the inner discussions with ourselves, in which we can breathe freely and accept our identity as a gift. "Not I live, but He lives in me." It is in this silence that the Spirit of God can pray in us and continue its creative work within us. Henri Nouwen, "Training for Campus Ministry"

So today was a restful day. A late start. A pause to mail off unnecessaries to Lisbon.   And up over thick pastures, under partly cloudy but hopeful skies full of seagulls, and above gentle surf burbling through black rocks.  We didn't stray from the two-lane roadway, not dogging off to brightly arrowed goat paths or cobbled side lanes, no matter how picturesque. Just a restful day ending in an ancient convent of sweet nuns, Some of my clothes are scrubbed out and hanging from a line strung from the bathroom window and we are all bathed and ready to wander Loredo.

And silence.

I did pull off some centered silence on the long downhills, but going up those ten degree grade hills it helped to sing choruses. Like "Create in me a Clean Heart," for instance, over and over.

And renew a right spirit within me. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wobbling tires are dangerous.

his branches run over the wall.” Genesis 49:22

Solitude is not a private space over against the public space of community, nor is it merely a healing space in which we restore ourselves for community life. Solitude and community belong together; each requires the other as do the center and the circumference of a circle. Solitude without community leads us to loneliness and despair, but community without solitude hurls us into a "void of words and feelings." (Bonhoeffer)

Solitude is essential to community life because in solitude we grow closer together. When we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we are in fact participating fully in the growth of community. It is a fallacy to think that we grow closer to each other only when we talk, play or work together. Much growth certainly occurs in such human interactions, but at least as much growth can take place when we enter into solitude. We take the other with us into solitude, and there the relationship grows and deepens. In solitude we discover each other in a way which physical presence makes difficult, if not impossible. Henri Nouwen, "Solitude and Community"

And I think about my Fixed Prayers lists, and bringing my lists of names before the Throne and laying those beloved people who have dug a hook into my heart and pausing, gazing, remembering and longing for His grace to shine. And solitude can be hamster wheels of grievances or it can be jars of oil poured running down over bent heads.

The choice is mine.

And it is still quiet in this place of shelved up bodies from all over the world, stacked. Each with a yearning from this grace. Each willing to lay all of the periphery circumference to one side to seek the center in order to return in wholeness.
And may today I take the other with me as I roll through these green pastures and still waters, for growth and deepening and discovery. That I might be a fruitful bough, with branches running over the wall.

Fruit, hmmmmm. Peace? Patience? Goodness? Meekness?

Solitude? Today was one of those days when we weren't so much trailing gloves and socks and locks behind us, but rather team members. Everywhere. And we spent three hours by the side of the road waiting for each other or riding and reriding up and down steep eight degree grades or riding back and forth, again and again. And all systems of communication, yeah, the shared root word as "community," like as in all together now, did not do so well. 

And it dumped rain on top of all of our tidy plans.

We rode down the last steep steep hill drenched and shivering and soaked through all of our bungy-corded plastic bags and wind breakers and layers. And ended up taking a train into Bilboa, which was pretty much stamping "Loser" on all of our pelegrino ideals.

So. Great opportunity to avoid grievances, and a great moment to put into practice grace. As in the May we forgive those who trespass against us that RJ led us in this morning's prayer.

And the sun came out. And we ate tapas in the ancient plaza with mamas and babies and grandpapas and everything is crinkle smiles and laughter. And now we are chatting at the hostel with a Brit and two Belgians who work with Oxfam. Who made us pasta. And Tracy and I are sharing our room with a girl who just got her PhD from Berkeley and a soccer player from Argentina who are both walking the Camino. And who could even believe this?

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thine name.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

And the only sound is that of a rooster in the distance.

Jesus says, "Go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place." Matthew 6:6

San Sebastián, Spain

To live a Christian life means to live in the world without being of it. It is in solitude that this inner freedom can grow, Jesus went to a lonely place to pray, that is, to grow in awareness that all the power He had was given to Him; that all the words He spoke came from His Father; and that all the works He did were really not His but the works of the One who had sent Him. In the lonely place Jesus was made free to fail.

A life without a lonely place, that is, a life without a quiet center, easily becomes destructive. When we cling to the results of our actions as our only way of self-identification, then we become possessive and defensive and tend to look at our fellow human beings more as enemies to be kept at a distance than as friends with whom we can share the gifts of life.

In solitude we can slowly unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and discover in the center of our own self that we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us. In solitude we can listen to the voice of the One who spoke to us before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, who set us free long before we could free others, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone. It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the the result of our efforts. In solitude we discover that's our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared. It's there where we recognize that the healing words we speak are not just our own, but are given to us; that the love we can express is part of a greater love; and that's the new life we bring forth is not a property to cling to, but a gift to be received. Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude

And this morning I did a little backwards planning from Lisbon, Portugal. And we have a lot of six-hours-of-riding-a-day up ahead of us. And getting out the alberge door at seven and stopping before the four o'clock rains move in. That's My Plan.

Henri Nouwen reminds me that life is not something to be conquered. But rather it is something to be received. A big saying in Spain is that "Turistas manden; peregrinos agradecen." Tourists demand; pilgrims give thanks.

And we are told that earth is not our home, that we are strangers and wayfarers, but that does not mean we are tourists. But that is how I live my life a lot of the time, clutching my crumpled train schedule nervously in one hand, and peering at the posted menu so very carefully, ready to send back the runny eggs. And certainly overpacking. Just in case. One never knows.


Lord, You who called your servant Abraham out of the town of Ur and who watched over him during all his wanderings; You who guided the Jewish people through the desert in their journey to the Promised Land; You who guided the Holy Family on their passage to Egypt; we beseech You to watch over your servants, who for Your greater honor and glory, make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostelo.

Be for us,
a companion on our journey
the guide on our intersections
the strengthening during fatigue
the fortress in danger
the resource on our itinerary
the shadow in our heat
the light in our darkness
the consolation during dejection
and the power of our intention

so that we under your guidance, safely and unhurt, may reach the end of our pilgrimage, and strengthened with gratitude and power, secure and filled with happiness, may return home to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel. We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen

And most of all may You be a companion in my journey, filling my heart, my thoughts, my soul, and my spirit. For Your great honor and glory, Amen. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Trying to write it all down before it turns into one big smear.

So really this Camino thing is about releasing control, a chance to relearn the Garden of Eden thing, to revisit the temptation to be gods in control of our destiny.

And we really meant to get an early start and haul off to Spain to start our Camino, but really it has started right here by the side of a roundabout, watching Brandon and RJ fix his gear changer. 

And really as we do a few stretchies here by a wall of flowers, the exhaust-filled roar of motorcycles and cars and monster trucks going around and around. I know where I wanna be, resting in the flowers.

And things got even a little crazier. We stopped along the sweeping beach, filled with elegant Spaniards strolling the promenade, and had a few tapas and watched a thick fog roll in across the bay.

 Particularly tender was watching the great grace with which the very elderly grandmamas and grandpapas were treated. And I kept pointing up to this castle tower overlooking the glowing city, saying we had to ride up that thing, and it practically destroyed me last year. And everyone just stared with solemn terror. Anyways we headed out just as it began sprinkling, but we have done sprinkles before.

But that ol' GPS thing of Brandon's led us straight up that hill. Now. When all of us were only thinking bed thoughts. Straight up. And then it started dumping. A veritable deluge. And after we headed up to where last year Nicole and I had this bright sunshiny glamour shot of overlooking a gleaming turquoise shell of sea, the GPS light kept blinking further and further. Up and up. And the Great Dane's gears simply would not drop any lower, no matter how much I wiggled them. They just rattled and clunked a little more. 

Suddenly we were there. The next turn left. And a smiling lady who knew my name was dangling a bronze key in my face. And the bungalow is cute in a airstream trailer sort of way. And really, the way the mist is settling down around all this green, it sort of reminds me of Costa Rica.

The Garden of Eden. Choosing to trust.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

All those trips up Sentenial Peak sure paid off

But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love. Genesis 39:21

And yesterday was a steadfast love sort of day. Brandon's GPS guide showed us the way, meter by meter, from Nice to Arles, 110 km. We still haven't seen any yellow arrows and all of the church doors are locked, so we have to settle for photos of ourselves lined up in front of the soaring spires and massive wooden portals barred shut, rather than having our pilgrims' passports stamped. 

And really the French countryside is like His steadfast love, rich and deep and nourishing. We rode past ever so many vineyards and olive orchards and cherry trees, kilometer after kilometer, until we almost stopped noticing. Up hill and down, village after village of stone and mortar houses, one after another, the only variation being the color of the window shutters. And it was  only when we hit the bumpy so-very-narrow twisting one way streets that we noticed it again, that quietly steady pulsing light. Follow me.
And I wandered around this town founded by the Romans in the first century, and through what was once a blood-drenched coliseum and imagined this pulsing Light reaching into all directions to all of His peoples, "Follow Me."

And Vincent Van Gogh lived in this town and painted sunflowers and outdoor starlit cafés. And he captured light so very well. And I so do not want to be distracted by train schedules and making sleeping arrangements and changing money or even eating food that each bite is more flavour-drenched than the last, that I don't notice the lovingkindness. 

And tomorrow we start El Camino in earnest from Bayonne, although we plan to spend an extra day in San Sebastián.

And when Christian arrived at House Beautiful, “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?”

And I feel the weight lifting. Not off of the back of my heavy-laden Great Dane bicycle. The packs are quite full. Even though Tracy has prepared two boxes of unnecessaries for mailing to Wilson and Fernanda's apartment in Lisbon.

But my windows are now open to the sun-rising, and name of this chamber is Peace, and I awake and sing, "Where am I?" Even though I darn sure can't pronounce it. Boy, I say "Merci," a lot. And Tracy taught me, "Beaucoup."

And oh my goodness, coming out of the French alps is amazing...with these low dense clouds wrapped around the snowcapped peaks as the train clickity clacks its way north through greenness that feels like hobbitons with welcoming lights glowing in the dusky windows reflecting in the once-again afternoon showers.  And we are going to arrive in Bayonne, in theory, and wind our way along this splashing weaving life-giving river for two miles to arrive at Rivendell, our stay for the night. And the name of the chamber was Peace.

So, a true story. We unloaded from the train into a dark wet windy night. And there was no wifi to set up the GPS. And the toilettes were locked. And after we prayed for a girl from Cuba with MS who was setting out on El Camino, a manager came running out and gave us a map that wasn't exactly right, but we just had to go down to the right for a kilometer, then cross the bridge and go along the river for a while, and then his voice sort of faded. So we turned right, and crossed the bridge and it was dark and wet and windy and we made a bad turn the wrong way down a one way street and this guy on a motorcycle came over to yell at us. But then he looked at our damp map and damp spirits, and he smiled big, and he said, "Follow me." And I had already written those two words twice tonight on the train.

So we did. And there was no way we could have ever found this place, up and around and a couple of bad turns with our assorted blinking bike lights. Nope, not on our own.

And now we are at this great big old mansion sort of place spread out all over great big green lawns and it's time for bed.

And, yes I started every paragraph with a conjunction, which you are really not supposed to do.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hot soapy showers are great.

I will sing a new song.

Prayer leads you to see new paths and to hear new melodies in the air. Prayer is the breath of your life which gives you freedom to go and to stay where you wish and to find the many signs which point out the way to the new land. Praying is not simply some necessary compartment in the daily schedule or a source of support in time of need, nor is it restricted to mealtimes or Sunday mornings. Praying is living. It is eating and drinking, action and rest,teaching and learning, playing and working. Praying pervades every aspect of our lives. It is the unceasing recognition that God is wherever we are, always inviting us to come closer and to celebrate the divine gift of being alive. Henri Nouwen, "With Open Hands"

Every dawn, the Italian birds let out a veritable cacophony of raucous melody to greet the rising sun. Crazy loud. And this morning apparently they awoke the seagulls, because they quickly joined in, soaring over the quiet Mediterranean surf. And then the roosters. A new melody. May my heart celebrate the divine gift of being alive, today. 

And may I notice the many signs pointing to the New World.

And we were the first pilgrims that this quite modern (1980) parish church had ever had, and they were so happy and quite nervous and wanted to do it right. And of course yesterday afternoon as I tried to haltingly explain in Italian what I wanted, at last one brother was so overwhelmed, he asked if I spoke Spanish, and hurried off to find the brother who had been a missionary in Peru. After a bit, he asked me if I spoke any English. And it turns out the first brother was an English-speaking Filipino who ever-so-carefully checked each of our credentials before stamping and dating them. Sweetness. As was the very fresh pastries and the carefully frothed capuchinos for breakfast before one of them shouted, "selfie!" And before they prayed for our journey, that we may see God in a fresh way.

And wow, we hit the big stuff right away, a great big hill, and many very long and very dark and very full of wild motorcycle riders tunnels, and the lovely down side. For every up, there will be a down. A beautiful down.

And once again I was quite nervous to purchase fruit in a French street market. The quite brusk Frenchman oddly kept shouting, "Come on, come on," as I struggled to produce numbers and names. But eventually my "s'il vous plaît" and "Non, merci" and of course "excuses-moi" won him over, and we were able to chomp on fresh apricots all day long.

While we were very impressed with ourselves for going through Monaco, actually it was squeezed in tight traffic, lots of it, and long stop lights, and we went no where very slowly, so I suggested up. My brave Brandon blanched (alliteration). "Christy, those are the foothills of the French Alps. We are talking five thousand feet." But all of us were weary of breathing fumes, so I led, somehow the Great Dane bike is leading, with Brandon bringing up the rear, up this tiny curving road straight up. After a bit, the crew decided that this was the driveway to some fancy resort at the top of the cliff overlooking the bay filled with yachts and cruise ships, but no, a kind French woman assured me in French that this was a road, very very steep, but that if we could do it, it would lead us to Nice, beautifully.

Also through La Turbie most beautifully with a Roman triumphant arche on top of this hill of the most beautiful stone village imaginable (and btw French public toilets are a marvel of electronic convenience) and Eze and a national park with part of the Roman Road which we actually didn't find, and Eze with an accent, and Villefranche-sur-Mar. But all of that up paid off in a long, long glorious down along the French Riviera, far more down than any of us thought we deserved, but yep, we had climbed 5,000 feet. 

And as we soared down, down, down into Nice, I pled with my God, much along the lines of Abraham's servant, asking for some steadfast love as we entered a teeming city of two million, "Help Your child to find the train station." We headed through the traffic towards the sea, assuming perhaps that would bring us to the oldish historical part of town, thinking along the lines of Grand Central Station or that refurbished Denver station, but the troops were fading, hungry and tired, so I settled them down on a nice tree-lined street, almost plaza, and went off to seek some kind soul willing to help a lost stranger. But the only person who would pay me the least attention was this slightly tipsy white-haired old man. "The train station?" we sorted out in my brilliant French. "Ah, the train station. Let me show you the train station." And he put his arm on my shoulder and pointed across the street to where they were waiting with the bikes. "The train station," he crowed with a smile. Out of all the hundred kabillion buildings in Nice where we could have paused, we parked in front of the train station. And now we head to Marseilles with nowhere to stay, just a wing and a prayer, and an invitation to celebrate the divine gift of being alive.  

And even if it took us ever so many up and down hills and asking and asking and asking, we did receive, and Tracy is just happily drying off from a hot shower. Alive and celebrating.

Monday, June 8, 2015


I live now not with my own life, but with the life of Christ who lives in me. Galatians 2:20

Prayer is the act by which we divest ourselves of all false longings and become free to belong to God and God alone.  This explains why, although we often feel a real desire to pray, we experience at the same time a strong resistance. We want to move closer to God, the source and goal of our existence, but at the same time we realize that the closer we come to God the stronger will be God's demand to let go of the many "safe" structures we have built around ourselves. Prayer is such a radical act because it requires us to criticize our whole way of being in the world, so lay down our old selves and accept our new self, which is Christ.

God is timeless, immortal, eternal, and prayer lifts us up into this divine life. Henri Nouwen, "Letting Go Of All Things"

On the train to Genova, Tracy is sitting across from me, memorizing Hail Mary. In order to stay in monasteries and convents across Italy and France for free we asked the local parish priest to write us a letter of recommendation. He agreed, if we would say a Hail Mary once a day. And I had no problem agreeing. Mary, full of grace, may that same Jesus be carried in me. May the angels say, "The Lord is with you."

And let the divesting begin. Already we are leaving a trail of bike helmets and glasses and bike locks and keys across Italy, and a medium-sized box is being shipped to Portugal full of clear unnecessities. So many structures to lay down.

And step into radical. Crazy. We hear it many times a day, always parsed with great kindness and mercy, but truly spoken, with a gentle head shaking. Maybe that's why we start in Genova, where Christopher Colombus headed out for the New World.

And whatever that verse is about Open up your mouth wide and I will fill it is so much true. My overflowing tummy, heart and soul can certainly not hold it all, the past few days of grace.

Being picked up by Marco in Bologna and hauled up to the tiled rooftop of the Franciscan monastery where he has been living alone in quiet contemplation for six months in a town called "horse bath" because this is where Napoleon's troops stabled their mounts. And we watched the fiery red sun set as we sipped red wine and nibbled pastries.

Then dinner with Chiara, and gelato in the Plaza and clambering up the ancient fort steps to watch the stars above and the children jumping off the stairs below. Up early for mass and the breaking of bread, and a croissant from one small shop and an expresso from another in order to support two local businesses. Off to the high school for a quick meeting with some students writing a cross-curricular final thesis on the border/immigration issues with the U.S. and Mexico from political, economic, Spanish and psychological perspectives. Back for the boys and more sweet breads and more cappuccinos, a quick visit to a couple of social outreaches for unemployed refugees and women from difficult situations, then the grandparents' farm and fresh fruit and homemade bread and homemade jam and homemade eggs and homemade wine, then, pop, pop back into the truck to a massive lunch with Marco's mentors: ravioli, pork chops, salad, beans, bread, and of course, gelato. Then while Brandon and Julian put together a couple of boxed bikes, Marco and I rode into Bologna to pick up Matteo arriving from Sweden, Tracy arriving from Arizona and a wayward bike arriving from London, and I heard a story of life decisions. How do we discern the voice of God in all the clutter of desire, hopes, and projects? After yet another cappuccino from Tracy's enthusiastic travel companion, we rushed back home for a very late but very yummy risotto dinner. And a sweet time of prayer with Chiara. She appreciates my bambini approach to Abba Father, which is certainly shaped by my bambini approach to Italian. Day One.  We had considered an invitation to drive to Venice and the Italian alps after the plane/train/bike pick-up where Julie and Brian were celebrating their last day of honeymoon, but even I mustered together some good sense in the muddle of jet lag, and declined.

Day Two began with Tracy buying a Cannondale sr500 silk road aluminum from a guy who worked at a bike shop and we did a practice ride to Ravenna, the seaside capital of the fourth century Byzantine Empire. Or something like that. Matteo drove alongside of us, proffering cheery directions, handfuls of freshly plucked right-off-the-tree cherries and apricots, refreshing water bottle squirts, and photographing the marvel of us actually getting on bicycles. It is clear that I will be way behind the others on my very sturdy hybrid bike, peddling madly behind their very swift road bikes, but such is the humbleness of life. We were heartened by 46 km in less than two hours. We just have to do that forty-three more times. With fully loaded bicycles. While the boys paddled on the beach Matteo drove us girls back, sharing yet more apricots and good conversation, to a wedding where their social service community was performing, Marco singing, Matteo on his violin, and afterwards we wandered out to the slippery soap and water slide soccer tournament, the quasi-evangelistic crusade inviting all of the town's young people from every possible walk of life to a two-week competition at the church, then home again, home again, jiggedy jig to begin making twenty-five pizzas in the outdoor wood stove for a group of German entrepreneurs who met Marco in China and who were just finishing up with the Milan World Expo. Did I say delightful Germans? And a few musicians and pizza after pizza after pizza and twinkly lights and music and German beer and yet more pizza. Dishes and bed. Day Two.

Day Three began late. Not sure that this is what Jehovah God intended with a Sabbath rest, but we did not drag ourselves out of bed until ten, and then only to prepare for the arrival of the Campostrini family from Venice. With amazing cheeses and meats and homemade prosecco. And Giovanni is doing well, studying International Relations in nearby Turin, and Monica is as sweet and wise as ever, and Stefano was a veritable fountain of sobering wisdom, as he is actually someone who has ridden his bike to Santiago from this region. Except that he is a knowledgeable and skilled cyclist, and, well, we are not. So went spent the afternoon looking at maps and where to chop and hop onto trains and how do they all work anyways, the local trains, the express trains and the trains in between and the bikes and tickets and, oh dear.

Once they left in a flurry of photographs under the jasmine arch, Matteo made the final rounds with us, to the mind boggling large decathlon sporting goods store to buy a rack and helmet for Tracy, the bank for Euros, the train station for tickets, yet one more delicious dinner by Chiara (really?) more gelato in the plaza, the letter from the priests nod pilgrim passport stamps, and then, at last, hanging out in the kitchen, laughing and telling childhood stories and stories from Marco's twelve-hour shift that day working at the home of juvenile delinquents, and then some prayers. Good prayers of offering ourselves up to God, and to Him alone. And may we please, Lord God, echo Mary's remaining under, Not my will, Lord, but Your will be done. Perhaps we should pack up some of that still-damp laundry? Day Three.

Cathy Simons wrote Tracy today. She is walking through a time of moving closer and remaining under. And she wrote about Blatant Gratitude. And for me, may my heart sing with gratitude. Blatant Gratitude. Not now living my own life, but His. Pedal-sliced up shins and all.

Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with Thee. Blessed art thou among women, And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

And now the pilgrimage has begun.the first step out of our front door, our home in Lugo, Italy.

"For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Beyond the world of smooshed, half-eaten eegee subs.

"Come unto me," Jesus said, "all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your soul will find rest, for My yoke is easy, and my burden light." Matthew 11:29-30

Here the deeper meaning of prayer becomes manifest to pray is to unite ourselves with Jesus and lift up the whole world through Him to go in, cry for forgiveness, reconciliation, healing and mercy. To pray, therefore, is to connect whatever human struggle or pain we encounter - whether starvation, torture, displacement of peoples, or any form of physical and mental anguish - with the . gentle and humble heart of Jesus

Prayer is leading every sorrow to the source of all healing; it is letting the warmth of Jesus' love melt the cold anger of resentment; it is opening a space where joy replaces sadness, mercy supplant bitterness, love displaces fear, gentleness and care overcomes hatred and indifference. But most of all, prayer is the way to become and remain part of Jesus' mission to draw all people to the intimacy of God's love. Henri Nouwen, "Prayer Embraces the World"

Freedom. Joy. Love. Vocation.

So pretty early this morning I met with Jack and Mary Anne on their back porch and they prayed for me.

Prayer is leading every sorrow to the source of all healing 

And a year ago before I even had a tiniest clue as to what El Camino was all about, and I was just planning on taking a little sip to get a clue of what this year's promised trip would be like, Marco said to me, "Christy, everyone does El Camino for a reason. Why are you going?" I paused. And paused some more. And the answer that came out from deep within was, "I want God to heal my broken heart."

And Mary Anne said that this was the year of Cracking the Coconut Shell surrounding my heart, breaking it all open to His light. And this morning she prayed for freedom, joy, love, and a clear sense of His calling.

So Mr. Gentle And Humble Brandon and I found ourselves in a pretty stunned silence as we clicked on our seat belts. Beyond just our low grade panic of watching our packed bike boxes roll out of sight. Pretty crazy stuff. But really what could be better? Throwing ourselves into His mercy, totally and completely. To slip on His yoke and head down the path ahead.

And LAX was filled with the human struggle, in each and every face, and each and every hand clasping a rolling carry-on or hefting a thoroughly taped cardboard box or flipping nervously through an iPhone. And we sat next to the very hip Cuban guy with orange pants who grew up in Miami but is now a voiceover actor in Los Angeles and he talked about his grandfather who wrote one of the drafts of the UN's Bill of Human Rights. Which Gustavo found ironic considering his grandfather was a Cuban with no human rights. And I wept through the final snippets of the movie Still Alice as I watched the actress ask my dad's confused question, "I used to be smart, didn't I?" And then we all told some miracle stories. May God be glorified.

Brandon and I finished what was left of his subway sandwich because I kinda forgot to bring trail mix, carrot sticks and granola bars, so I am drinking lots of Mott's 100% tomato juice which is almost like eating something, and if we can make it to Miami, British Airways promises an unending flight of food to London. Which is a lot better than an unending and relentlessly mindless tastes of pop culture as captured by NBC television on our back-of-the-seat-screens. I am discovering that food is going to a big theme when one travels with two sixteen-year-old boys, even before the bicycle factor.

Which should be vivid imagery for those hungering and thirsting metaphors.

Yes, Lord Jesus, I come unto Thee. Hungry and thirsty. For freedom from indifference, joy rather than sadness, and Your loving presence which casts out all fear. And, Lord, may my yearning be to be one with You, united into Your mission to draw all peoples into the intimacy of Your love, because Your cross has torn down the thick stifling curtain which separated us all from You.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Well, almost packed. Gotta cram that bike into that bag.

Who is like you, LORD God of Hosts? Mighty LORD, your faithfulness is all around You. You rule the raging of the sea and still the surging of the waves. Yours are the heavens; the earth is Yours also. You laid the foundations of the universe and all that is in it. You have made the north and the south; the mountains rejoice in Your name. Righteousness and justice are the foundations of Your power; love and truth go before Your face. Happy are the people who walk, O LORD, in the light of Your presence. They rejoice daily in Your Name; they are jubilant in your righteousness. Psalm 89

So Brandon and I sort of started to panic just a tiny bit. Brandon because he is one of those guy who likes to take care of it all. Not depend on anyone at all. Not so much liking the idea of living off of the mercy of others. Seems to be a genetic trait. Pulsing strong through the blood vessels, hitching up our britches and heading up the steep hill, one step at a time.

But God, ever-faithful God, sent me a little blog from the son of the very coolest people I know (my apologies to all my other very cool friends) who for his honeymoon rode bicycles across Europe for three months. And after it was all said and done and lived he summed it up: We went without a plan. We invited risk and vulnerability in faith that the world is more good than bad, people are more generous than suspicious, and that if we remained open and as generous as we could be, we would be taken care of in one form or another. We connected with friends and friends of friends. We were invited into the homes of strangers, shared incredible conversations and food and wine with people we would have never met had we booked our accommodations in advance. We found incredible rest and beauty on the banks of so many different rivers and in the shelter of many different forests. We tested our endurance and patience. We learned to push a little harder and further and to admit that we need rest.

And I know that last year I heard His voice over and over: I love you my beloved daughter. I will provide. I will be your comfort and your strength. Rest in me.

And John O’Hair reminded us yesterday from Philippians 4:4-7, yeah, my life verses that frame all my secret passwords, that the mark of a Christian is joy. Ol’ Francis said, “It is not fitting, when one is in God's service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.” And Peace. Once again, Francis reminds me, “While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.” As in, If you do this, you will experience God’s peace which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.

And one last but not last but not least word for Brandon and me: Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.

Risk and vulnerability.

Happy are the people who walk, O LORD, in the light of Your presence.