Monthly Archives: July 2014

Look, Ask, Walk

IMG010England is less than twenty-four hours away and I’m moving into pilgrimage mode, reflecting again on Jeremiah 6:16.

This is what the Lord says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,

ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.

Stand at the crossroads. It’s time to walk along new roads, or at least look, and step away from a weekly routine. However, as I look to my imminent departure, I am materially prepared, but am not sure about the spiritual and mental departments. Am I ready to meet the places and people I will encounter over the next weeks? To really look at the crossroads? To be open to the challenges and new ideas? I don’t have a definitive answer, but even asking the questions is a start – a way of standing and looking.

Ask for the ancient paths, for the good way. As I have prepared to look, readings from earlier pilgrims have shown some of the ancient, and not so ancient, paths ahead. Even as these stories have been drawing me to travel, it’s now time to get personal and venture on my unique journey as a disciple, as a learner, as a writer. Home remains a significant part of the good way for me. At home I am centered in faith and family. Because of the strong center here, I can travel to the center away – to be at home even while not at home. In addition I’m looking forward to seeing the ancient paths through a new lens, that of the C. S. Lewis Summer Institute – Reclaiming the Virtues: Human Flourishing in the 21st Century. Workshops, speakers, conversations, places, and more will be part of this asking and exploring. However, in the midst of all the activity, it will be essential to take time for solitude and reflection or I may miss recognizing the good way.

Walk in it. Part of me is already planning the return. With fall campus ministry activities and weekends booked, it seems the walk for my return is already in place and it doesn’t look that different from the past years. However, the next two weeks may bring changes. Maybe it will be only a slight veering of the path, or a more drastic turning. Opening myself up to change is not safe and controlled. Maybe some of those plans will need to be scrapped for others. But that’s the way of pilgrimage, and of God. He doesn’t allow us to remain comfortable in our walk if we’re off track. Taking this time away will be an opportunity to see if I need to walk in a different way, whatever that means. It’s something I can’t plan, but to which I can be open.

Many people may ask why go on such a journey. Why don’t I go to the beach or the mountains for a time of relaxation? However, in these pilgrimage journeys I find rest along the way. A rest that comes from God’s grace and truth.  So it’s with this grace that I get ready to leave – to look, ask, and walk.

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Waiting to Breathe

IMG_1489The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. – Job 33:4

We all have habits we fall into while waiting for a big event. Mine is often holding my breath – both literally and figuratively. As I prepare for the imminent journey to England, along with fall plans for ministry, anxiety is building within me and I catch myself not breathing. Waiting to finish that next task, I don’t fill my lungs fully. Short, shallow breaths keep me going as my shoulders gradually rise throughout the day. I’m attempting to hold on until July 18 when I can finally let go and revel in the places and stories for which I’ve been planning.

As I hold on, though, I’m in danger of losing the very stories that center me for the pilgrimage ahead. I forget to look around where God has me today and live as if these fulfilling stories can only enter my life during these extreme trips. The rest of life is merely waiting for them to take place. If I continue in this state, I may find myself unable to slow down and change my routine of running from task to task even once in England. So, I’m stopping now to breathe. To consider some of the practices drawing me to travel, but also those that I would like to engage with more deeply when I return.

Playing  The child in me wants to break out and play. I’m looking forward to spending time on this upcoming pilgrimage learning to sketch, sharing writing with others, visiting sites, attending concerts, and taking in the new places. All of these activities come without expectations that they need to be finished by a certain date, reach a certain number of people, or be judged. I want to encounter each of these activities with wonder and willingness to enjoy each moments and try new things.

Feasting  Associated with the play, I want to feast on words, places, and food. Instead of worrying over budgets and living in scarcity, I’m eager to thoroughly enjoy the abundance of each day – even within limitations. First feasting in the mercy and love that God pours on us, then in the other gifts that he graciously shares from his creation.

Creating  I can’t wait to sit, draw, write, imagine, and weave stories. I’m looking forward to being in a space that honors creativity and those who express it through various media. I like to think that I have a spark of creativity in me that needs to get out, even in the midst of administrative tasks. If nothing else, I am eager to see the creativity of God expressed through his people.

Gathering From a young age I’ve yearned to gather with people of similar interests. To laugh and learn together. While I’ve always been surrounded by a loving family and friends, there have been a few significant times that a group has coalesced around a shared experience – whether that’s at a camp, at college, or through travel. These times and people have been key turning points in my life. Maybe this coming pilgrimage will be another one.

Worshiping  In, through, and under all of these practices I long to see God in the midst of all molding a story. Ironically, even though I work in campus ministry, it can easily become an array of tasks instead of a space in which to worship and see God. Stepping away from the weekly routine I look forward to engaging with God anew.

As I prepare for this upcoming pilgrimage, I want to be open to the stories in which I find myself. To be looking for the ones I expect, following the ones that have drawn me, but also to welcome all that I encounter. This journey isn’t about designing a comfortable story in which to hide. Instead through these practices I want to be challenged to honestly engage with God’s story – and return with a renewed experience of flourishing in God’s grace and sharing this with others.

Even now I’m starting to breathe more freely. I’m entering a space outside of the daily task-driven routine. This isn’t necessarily an ideal place, but one in which I can meet the reality of life on a new level, to rework deep stories, and to return to provide space for people to play, feast, create, gather, worship – and breathe.

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