Pilgrimage Sharings

Finding the Return Home

How often do you long for home? This could be the house of your childhood, or, really, any place where you are accepted and loved. A place where others understand you and where you fit in. Whatever this place looks like, whether it exists in a physical location or in your mind’s eye, each of us has a longing for home.

Ever since my mother passed away, I’ve had to redefine this longing. I may be living in the house she made into a home, but it doesn’t have the same feel. Thus, I’ve been working to create a welcoming place to which I can invite people and where I can experience and share a grounded love. But something is always missing in this endeavor: specifically the arms of my mother. Yet, there remains in me a hope that a home, a solid home, still exists.

This hope has be284D26BD00000578-3067012-A_page_in_a_rare_medieval_tome_named_the_Liesborn_Gospel_Book_be-a-85_1430750081229en revived through a new spiritual practice a friend introduced me to – a prayer wheel. Recently, a version of this forgotten prayer tool from the Middle Ages was discovered in a 10th century gospel book from Liesborn, Germany. On the first blank page, someone drew a circle and then filled it with elements to guide praying. Included are petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, the gifts of the Spirit from Isaiah 11, moments in the life of Christ, and the beatitudes from Matthew 5, all arranged in seven spokes with God at the center. (Learn more at http://www.religionnews.com/2015/04/30/no-dice-required-a-medieval-prayer-w
heel-surfaces-but-how-it-was-used-is-anyones-guess/.)

Around this circle the words “The order of the diagram written here teaches the return home” frame the diagram and the prayer. Each day that I’ve prayed using this tool, I’m drawn to the words of home. I place my finger on the cross at the top of the wheel and trace the outer words. By the time I’ve returned to the cross I realize a renewed peace as I begin praying the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. Though I may not experience home as I have in the past, I’m recognizing that a different and deeper reality of home is present. I’m moving towards a deeper peace because I’m learning that home is not something I or someone else creates, but is being with God.

As David cries out in Psalm 27

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.

Even if I use this tool for less than a minute a day, it is redirecting my thinking. There is something about physically tracing a path as I speak the words. It’s similar to taking a pilgrimage, walking a labyrinth, or making the sign of the cross. As I connect to something tangible, such practices take me out of the sometimes ethereal, otherworldly practices of seeking to dwell in the Lord’s house. But, isn’t this what abiding in Christ should be, since he is fully human, as well as fully God? It makes sense that to abide with him, a person needs to connect with that human, material part – not merely the spiritual. These material practices point the reality of God’s incarnation. They also affirm that the longing for home has a destination.

St. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about this longed-for dwelling as well:

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. (2 Corinthians 5:1-3)

While I continue to re-create a place of home and as I hear the call of home from many other sources, this diagram on a single 8×10 sheet of paper reminds me of the true home. A home in which I don’t need to worry about paying the taxes, repairing cracks in the wall, or finding the right sofa. Even as I fondly remember the home my mother created and seek to create my own version, I realize these can only be glimpses of an eternal home at the heart of God.

It’s a blessing to find home with God, where ever I may find myself – and to be thankful for the experiences that have and continue to point to it.

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Pilgrims Along the Way

IMG_4070While I’m redecorating my home as a pilgrimage way station, I find myself in a comfortable and familiar role – leading the planning and execution of a project at my own pace and in my own way. For now a lot of this work, especially the design, has been a solo endeavor with some great co-laborers to bring the larger projects to fruition.

As the bookcases are filled with books, I sit in this space and imagine the people who will fill the chairs and sofas. I want friends and family to gather for meals, conversations, and creative endeavors. I see much laughter and inspiration as dreams come to fruition in this place. It’s an idealized picture without any problems.

Yet, I know that if real relationships are to flourish, there will be difficult times. Conflicts that erupt in small group meetings over biblical interpretation or understanding of the world. Meals that don’t turn out. People that don’t show up. Misunderstandings over family priorities. Opening my house means opening my life and being vulnerable. With this realization, slowly the ideal pictures fade and fear takes over. In this fear I could easily sink into my safe solitariness and defend it by claiming the need to restore my energy as an introvert.

In journeys of pilgrimage, people come together in places of vulnerability. As we seek to get closer to the deep story that is drawing us on a life journey, the false ones must be stripped away if we are to go any further. Just as Aslan tore the dragon skin from Eustace Scrub in C. S. Lewis’ novel, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we must allow God and the community around us to remove that which is keeping us from a full life.

Now that I’m in the midst of creating a new space, I wonder how to develop not only an environment that is welcoming, but also a character that is open to stripping away the comfortable fear and the pride that keep people at a distance? I won’t be able to control the individuals who enter this place as I do the redecoration – not unless I want to destroy relationships. Though I may not always be comfortable with it, I know that other travelers are an essential part of the journey – and not only in pilgrimage, but also in the life of a Christian. From the beginning, God knew it was not good that Adam was alone. Furthermore, as part of God’s new covenant, we are even called the Body of Christ, together.

51hOom4ewOL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_In this time of redesigning not only my basement, but also my life, I’ve stumbled upon the second novel by Sharon Garlough Brown, Two Steps Forward: A Story of Persevering in Hope. The continuation of the story started in Sensible Shoes finds four women, Meg, Hannah, Mara, and Charissa, moving through the crises in their lives as they seek to be more attentive to God through spiritual disciplines and in community. Practicing these disciplines isn’t a secret key to resolve all their family, career, and relationship issues. Neither are these disciplines easy or the community in which they find themselves always comforting.

Yet, in the midst of the messiness of their lives, I felt each woman’s struggle to hold on to hope – not hope in the world, but in Christ. This hope allows each of them to loosen the grip on the false stories in which they have been living. In broken lives, with humble postures, and through faithful community with God and one another, their lives are reborn in the midst of struggle. This is the type of life I long for myself and others to know.

In this story I see possibilities for community. Images of real people practicing prayer, stepping forward in pain, and caring for one another. In short, they are sharing life together.

It’s soon time to think about making invitations to the first group of fellow pilgrims to this way station. What will we do? How will we gather? I want to fill this space with more than a picture-perfect version of community. Maybe we could even begin with this novel as we find a new way together.

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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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Drawn to Oxbridge

IMG_1695So, what are the stories that are drawing me to England this year?

The primary story for this journey to the C. S. Lewis Summer Institute in Oxbridge comes through his writings, especially Surprised by Joy. I desire to connect more deeply to that truth of God to which moments of joy point.

As I dig into the story of C. S. Lewis I’m drawn to this man, this academic who was passionate about the study of literature and philosophy and his path to faith. Through these loves, the means through which he saw and understood the world, he came to faith. Reading from Longfellow’s Saga of King Olaf – “I heard a voice that cried, Balder the beautiful is dead, is dead” plunges him into a moment of joy that sends him on the path of reading literature and marveling in myths. His position at Oxford put him in the path of J. R. R. Tolkien and through a mutual interest in Anglo-Saxon language and literature a friendship is born. Through this friendship and literature God draws Lewis to seek and find him. Eventually, his understanding of myth led him to see the ultimate, true myth – Jesus dying on the cross and rising again.

Moreover, Lewis’ faith journey did not end here. Once he turned this corner, Lewis committed himself fully to knowing Christ and living out this belief. He used his gifts in writing and logic to explain Christianity to a new audience. He broke from the mold of an Oxford academic and wrote apologetics and children’s novels, along with significant pieces of work within his discipline. He shared the truth he was learning through scripture through the means he knew best. In addition he practically reached out to the people around him – whether this was his family, his students, or children evacuees during WWII. This is the story of a man “living in step with the truth of the Gospel” (Galatians 2:14).

Rippling out from the story of this mere man, many other stories have followed. Subsequent readers of Lewis’ writings have found faith at Oxford and around the world. They have seen a life lived. A broken life though it may have been, God used it. The fullness of this story draws people to this place to explore what following in the steps of such a life may mean for them. Or, they see Lewis’ rational grappling with faith and start along a similar path to ground their faith. Virginia Owens shares her experience as a pilgrim following in the steps of C. S. Lewis. In Oxford, as she went along Addison’s Walk where Lewis had had a life-changing conversation with Tolkien and Hugo Dyson, she suddenly experienced a sense of “veneration” travel throughout the group she was with. Following this journey, she felt more “anchored” to Lewis and his writing through the moments she experienced.

It’s from these and many others stories connected with C. S. Lewis, Oxford, and Cambridge that I’m drawn to return. But I’m also drawn to gather with a IMG_1587group, the other participants and presenters, who also desire to live a well-lived life, with the truth of the gospel at the center. People who are seeking to live a full faith where God has placed them. Through a marvelous tapestry of talks, writing, music, dance, dining, community, thinking, and so much more this conference will help all of us be drawn deeper into God’s story.

So I’m stepping into the story of a writer engaging in pilgrimage, being transformed through the Holy Spirit in the midst of the stories I have already and will encounter. However, this isn’t just about me. I wanting to explore ways to connect people with the stories that deeply speak to them and create spaces to do this – in campus ministry, at church, with friends, and in a wider community. I don’t know what I will ultimately encounter this summer. But thinking of these stories is helping me to prepare and open up to possibilities.

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Pilgrimage Preparations

IMG17Buying tickets. Ordering clothes. Creating itineraries. It’s easy to get consumed in preparing for travel, wanting everything to be just right. As far as reading, travel guides are the way to go to provide a pathway to a perfect vacation.

But there is another way. A way of story.

In writing these words, I realize that I have not taken time to reflect on the stories that are calling me to return to England this summer. Ironically I’m currently rewriting the section of a book on literary pilgrimage that delves into the idea of sacred travel, pilgrimage, a journey to a story. After following in the steps of St. Francis in Assisi a decade ago I understood the places and stories in a way that connected with me deeply. Seeing the journey as a pilgrimage made a difference in how I interacted with the places and people along the way – and how I returned home transformed. Since then I have tried to look at most of my journeys as pilgrimages.

However, for an upcoming trip to the C. S. Lewis Summer Institute at Oxbridge, I have wandered from this way of thinking. Maybe I really haven’t strayed too far, but I have sought to control the travel and set up a well organized, but relatively safe journey. I’ve been trying to create a time that will whisk me away to an eden for a while, instead of seeing the time as opportunity to engage with stories and be transformed.

So, how am I going to move into seeing this time as pilgrimage? Since the Institute is a conference, it has a different flavor than other journeys. But there remains a story to follow. A large part of the story I’m following is that of C. S. Lewis being surprised in finding God in the midst of his search for joy and his living discipleship to Christ in response to that surprise. But I’m also drawn to romantic idea of spending time in Oxford and Cambridge, taking in the sights, lectures, and experiences. And tea, Lots of tea and scones.

IMG_1759But, primarily, I’m seeking to walk in the story of a God who calls us to follow him.

With these stories (both the serious and the fun) now in front of me, it’s time to read and reflect on them. It’s also time to pray, not only for my journey, but also for the people I will meet along the way. To pray that I’ll be open to the temporary community that will form. That I will walk over thresholds into new places. That I would see the sacred center of my time through the incarnated life of Jesus – and through the new life with which he covers his people.

As I walked through the streets of Assisi I recalled the words of the psalmist to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). A visceral, physical experience of God in the midst of life. Reflecting on that time, I am now preparing for this journey to England as a pilgrimage, being ready to experience the places and meeting people through the God who is good – though not always safe. Just as Mr. Beaver speaks of Aslan in the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia “Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.”

What stories, if any, draw you to travel this year?

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Christmas Card

IMG_1810“Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” – C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle

As today we remember that stable, I’ve been reflecting on the doors I’ve passed through this year.  What have you seen as you’ve walked through the doors in your life?  I’ve continued to learn more about this “something” that was larger than the world – the Word of God, Jesus Christ – as I’ve walked into and out of many doors.  Walking through the doors of Starbucks I listen to students share their excitement in using writing, music, and research for God’s glory; opening the doors of the Edge Campus Ministry House I encounter students from around the world who seek community and God’s Word; walking through the front door of home I receive the love of family; entering through the doors of churchI hear words of mercy for someone who is often not merciful; and passing through the doors of authors IMG_2072like C. S. Lewis and Beatrix Potter (through both their writings and the actual doors of their homes) I’ve seen into new worlds and deeper into the one in which we live.  I’m looking forward to – and a bit nervous about – the doors that will confront me in the months ahead.

Each day may we all know the wonderful adventure of drawing closer to the “something” bigger than the world as we walk through new and familiar doors.IMG_1485

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Looking at Ruins with Jane Austen’s Wit/Wisdom

Each time I trek to England I’m amazed by the number of religious ruins across the country, from Stonehenge to Fountains Abbey.  I’m particularly struck by the abbeys.  They retain the basic structures of cathedrals, but with a few items missing – like ceilings and walls.  Walking on the grass that now serves as the floors for these immense, decaying structures, I imagine them at various times in history: filled with religious men and women in prayer and work; closed and stripped of valuables by a king’s edict; used as inspiration for the musings of Romantic poets; and now visited by many believers on pilgrimage.

On my latest journey I again found myself standing in the middle of one of these structures – the Priory on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in the northeast.  As usual I entered this space with a certain solemnity in my walk and gaze.  Shortly afterwards I read a small pamphlet Jane Austen penned in 1791, “The History of England by a partial, prejudiced & ignorant Historian” in which she comments on ruins like these, and their reason for being.

 The Crimes & Cruelties of this Prince [Henry the 8th], were too numerous to be mentioned & nothing can be said in his Vindication, but that his abolishing Religious houses & leaving them to the ruinous depredations of Time has been of infinite use to the Landscape of England in general, which probably was a principal motive for his doing it, since otherwise why should a Man who was of no Religion himself be at so much trouble to abolish one which had for Ages been established in the Kingdom?

With a jab of humor she intimates that the then growing appreciation for these structures as ruins had eclipsed the painful history behind them.  Continuing to reflect along these lines, I wondered if these sites are visited more in their ruined state than they would be if they had continued as places of worship and ministry.  Eventually some of them would have ‘naturally’ been left empty as religious orders decreased and congregations shrank. Instead of being ‘martyred’ for the fancies of a king, they would have been closed and forgotten.  Without a story to tell, I would imagine that future generations would easily bypass them. Just another casualty of an ever changing society.

Nevertheless these ruins are truly a part of the English landscape now, as Austen observes. Maybe for some visitors a significant piece of history is merely another well-placed tree.  However, for many people the scaffolding of stones that remains allows them to infuse these places with meaning.

IMG_1919Before heading to Lindisfarne I spent time in Bath where I walked around and worshiped in Bath Abbey.  Since 757 AD a Christian church has stood at this site.  As with the dissolution of other monasteries it was closed down and stripped of all valuables in 1539.   Yet, unlike some of the other abbeys, the Anglican Church eventually rebuilt it when in 1572 the son of Matthew Colthurst, who then owned the shell of the abbey, presented it the the citizens of Bath to use as a parish church. Since then it has undergone several significant renovations and is now a place of history, art, and a living congregation. The soaring stone vaulting above my head, the stained glass, and the art throughout helped direct the worship beyond my small self.  I was rising up with the words spoken and sung for Evensong.  However, the experience connecting with the holiness of God seemed to be contained within the space.  Walking outside into the mass of tourists in front of the Roman Baths I was quickly brought back into my own frantic world.

IMG_1969Two days later at Lindisfarne Priory, where the walls are slowly crumbling and any soaring ceiling is long gone, I experienced a more organic interaction with the sacred and secular.  As I and others walked around the land we saw the sky through openings where stained-glass once shared stories from the Bible; passed partial staircases that used to continue up to the second floor and a sleeping area; and touched crumbling walls that used to divide the spaces that separated monks and villagers. Here I recognized even more than at Bath the limits of humans on this earth in the erosion of this building.  I saw the grandeur of God as my sight didn’t have a ceiling to limit the gaze upward.  Unlike the abbey in Bath, there was no enclosed space that I entered or left.  Instead there was a constant conversation between the building, the land, and the visitors. I found that in this space my internal reflections did not so quickly leave, as I continued to reflect on God’s majesty and humankind’s humility of which this place is evidence.

I, like Austen, would caution people to see these sites as more than pleasant landscapes to observe from a distance of time and space. Through their layers of story they provide means for people to stop; to recognize our own limits on this earth; perhaps to sense a different presence of God; and then to return to the temples of today with a more humble heart.

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Quilting a Pilgrimage

For over five years I’ve intended to start a hands-on project – one that doesn’t involve a keyboard.  Too often I’m focused on reading, writing, planning, and thinking – mostly in front of a laptop.  So, even before my dissertation was finished, I started a project to create five small landscape quilts related to each of the pilgrimages included in the research. These would be visual images recreated in fabric that I would choose, feel, cut.  A tangible product that would get me out of my head and away from a screen.  I could picture the final quilts hanging on my wall and as illustrations in a book about these journeys.  I had the story in mind; getting there has been the challenge.

Yes, it’s been five years.  Fabric still waits in a basket on top of a bookcase.  Many things have happened in the intervening time, but not much to engage that mind-hands interaction.  My excuses are many:

  • Unscheduled days don’t appear in the calendar.
  • I’m unsure of what to do.
  • I’ll make a mistake.
  • I’ll never finish.
  • This is a waste of time.

So the basket has remained closed.

Recently I met a woman who creates landscape quilts and thought that she could spur my latent interest.  I reached out and spent over an hour at her house looking at fabric and learning some basic techniques.  After sorting through the fabric scraps she gave me, I added them to the basket, saving it up for that perfect day.  Yet, I remained afraid to step out into the unknown space of working on this quilt.  Would I keep the possibility stored away, or do something about it?

I had the story I was working towards and now at least one other person with me on this journey.  So, I eventually I took the basket down and read some how-to books.  I was in the preparation phase of the pilgrimage, gathering the necessary equipment to bring along – pins, fabric, scissors.  I started by first creating the canvas.  I like that.  I’ll be working on a canvas just like an artist.  The first hours, though, were a bit of a failure.  But I had started.  I’d stepped into a place where I’m moving towards the final destination of completing these quilts. It seems a long way off, but there is hope – and I think I’ll learn much along the way.

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A Pilgrimage of a Bible Study

I’ve cut and pasted sections of past work research and writing into a new document.  It’s now ready to look at it from a new perspective, for a new audience – a Bible study on pilgrimage for a local church.  This isn’t so much following the theme of pilgrimage throughout the Bible (which is another project that would be fun), but delving into historical and theoretical research I’ve pursued in this field and weaving it together with passages from scripture.

Part of me is reluctant to put together this study.  If I keep this work safe on my shelves and in my mind, then no one can criticize what I’ve done or tell me that I need to look at these ideas in a different way.  Yet, does such an attitude accomplish anything?  I remember my initial enthusiasm for reading about the stories of individuals who struck out on these journeys to reach sacred sites – and for many different reasons.  St. Helena, Constantine’s mother, traveled Jerusalem and is said to have discovered the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.  A nun, Elgeria, went to the Holy Land to have a deeper experience of God’s Word.  In the Middle Ages some individuals may have trekked long distances on pilgrimages wanting primarily to get out of town on one of the few accepted reasons for travel.

As I look at this new study, I want to share some of these intriguing stories of early pilgrims, along with a simple description of how pilgrimage ‘works’, and ways that people can step into pilgrimage even without traveling to the ends of the earth (though such journeys are pretty amazing).  This is an uncomfortable liminal space for me – one of starting conversations about pilgrimage even though I may not know the outcome.  I’m between feeling goad about my research (a somewhat finished product) and putting it in front of other people to interact with.  What will they ask?  How will it meet them in their life stories?  What will I learn?

Will this change the world?  Probably not.  But it may change me and maybe a few people – opening us to that that pilgrimage dynamic, that transformation that can occur in the midst of place, story, and pilgrim.

 

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