Posts Tagged With: pilgrimage

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.

Advertisements
Categories: Pilgrimage Sharings | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating a Pilgrimage Way Station

As part of exploring the pilgrimage path before me, I’ve renewed an enthusiasm for creating my home as a way station. As pilgrims through the ages have needed a place to rest along on their journeys, I dream of my home as being such a place. People may not be wearily walking to Compostela before arriving at my door, but they are on other journeys and need a place for a cool drink of water (or some ice-cream) and a listening ear.

At the same time I want a place that invites me to be attentive to God in the midst of this life journey and a place where others can join – not only to rest on the way, but also to be encouraged and explore their next steps within God’s story.

I imagine that this home will be a way station for reading, writing, thinking, praying, and feasting. A place of safety, but also of challenge. Meeting God and meeting with others is always fraught with the potential for discomfort. Yet in the midst of the discomfort is that abundant life.

In this place I see

  • images of journeys on the walls
  • books of inspiration on the shelves
  • tables for meals with friends and family
  • chairs to gather in conversation
  • desks for writing and dreaming

IMG_3999As I select colors for the walls, consider fabrics for the chairs, wait for bookcases to be installed in the basement and the carpet to be laid, I’m eager to fill the shelves with rows of books and albums of photos. Poetry and prose. Family and travel. I picture how I will set up the furniture with open space for conversation and quiet areas for writing.

In this way station I see my nieces drawing and writing, or students making a meal together. I envision people engaged with God’s Word or discussing the latest bestseller. I imagine a group planning a trip to England or service in the neighborhood. There will be space for laughter and tears.

In all of this we remember that we are living in the now and the not yet, following a merciful Guide as we continue the journey on which we find ourselves.

 

Categories: Journey Living, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

Losing Sight of the Shore

IMG026“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. – Andre Gide

The above quote has been pinned to the bulletin board above my desk since November 2000 when a former supervisor sent it as encouragement and as his image of me. At that time I was moving from a secure job in business to a doctoral program in literature. Not necessarily the safest move. I did not see the lands in front of me clearly, specifically the job possibilities that would come from this journey. I just jumped in and pushed off from the shore of a 9 to 5 job and I haven’t returned there yet.

However, was I really leaving the shore? Sometimes I think that this is not a true picture of me. Throughout my years I have clung to safe moorings of family, home, and jobs. I may leave one thing, but hold onto the others. Even though I left the one job, I had a secure place to live and a supportive family. Yet, without remaining on at least one familiar shore, I don’t think I would have left at all.

So, losing sight of our shores will look different for different individuals. Still, whatever they look like, they are departures that allow us to open our eyes to new possibilities in life. As I left that job, I found new interests in pilgrimage and literature and eventually integrated them with the Christian faith in my current role in campus ministry – a new land I never saw coming in 2000.

Moreover, sometimes the shores we leave are not always ones we choose. As the reality of my mother’s impending death flooded over me last year, I felt unmoored. Pushed into the ocean with only a small rowboat for safety. I would no longer have the sure comfort of her encouragement and her love greeting me every day. There would be nothing to hold to as I left other shores. It still feels like that at times. But I’m also seeing new lands:

  • supportive friends,
  • blessings of remembered stories,
  • grace of God’s presence in suffering,
  • gift of creating a new home,
  • freedom to leave other shores.

In these reflections I think of Abraham, Moses, Ruth, and others who left familiar places, shores of their lives. Sometimes they knew where they were going, but many times they didn’t, or at least didn’t know what it would be like when they arrived. Yet, they kept moored to a faith in God. In the process of leaving one place they grew in that faith which allowed them to arrive at those new lands with a receptive spirit and a stronger trust in God.

I still don’t know if I fully embody Gide’s quote, but now I can even leave that concern behind. In the coming months, I pray for the courage to leave certain shores from which God is calling me. Not in a reckless abandon, but in a faithful walk expecting to see new lands and secure in the One who is showing them to me.  I also look forward to talking with others who are losing sight of their shores so we can walk (or row) together in this time.

Categories: Journey Living | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

A New Liminality

IMG_3326For years I’ve welcomed liminal periods, those moments of walking over thresholds in life; of being outside of familiar places. I’ve willingly stepped into new academic programs, away from jobs, into overseas adventures. On pilgrimages, I’ve known that I would face new places and unexpected challenges. With new jobs I looked forward to the first weeks of not knowing exactly what was expected. Somehow I was confident that on the other end I would emerge changed and better able to live into life more fully.

However, recently I was thrust into a liminal time in which I did not want to be. My mother was diagnosed with cancer, again. Once I heard the diagnosis I entered a time between cancer in remission and what? Hovering over this threshold of metastasizing cancer I didn’t know what would happen and tis time the other side did not look so promising.

  • I had no control.
  • I could not opt out.
  • I could not envision what was on the other side of this threshold.

For twenty-five days I walked into the hospital to be with my mom, talk with doctors, wait for the next step. Will nausea continue when a GNT tube is removed? Will she keep down food? What is the source of this mass? Can she get enough nutrition to start chemotherapy? Will a decompression tube in her stomach allow her to eat? Will the surgery for the tube compromise any recovery? Sometimes I felt all I could do was sit and wait in the vinyl covered visitor chair in her room. After weeks of wondering and waiting for the scale to tip in my mom’s favor, we learned there was no way to control this tumor. Her digestive system was so compromised that it was working against her.

Unlike other hospital departures, this was bittersweet and took me deeper into a liminal time. I walked over the thresholds of the hospital and into home hospice care. For my mom this meant life in a hospital bed in the living room and limited mobility. For me this was jumping into daily nursing care. I didn’t know what would happen. Would she be able to digest any food at home? How long would she be here? For how long would she be able to have visitors?

The first days contained some hope in this place without monitors and with the comfort of the sights and smells of home. But each day remained a time of waiting. After two weeks the pain increased and her food intake continued to diminish. She couldn’t do anything that required concentration such as reading or writing. Visits, movies, television, conversation filled the time. It was impossible to plan for anything as her condition might change from hour to hour.

In these times, during this waiting, I so often wanted to yell and cry. To leave. I wanted out, but that was not an option. Sometimes I did leave for a couple of hours to run errands or even to eat out while others sat with my mom. But there was always a tightness in my stomach knowing I had to return. For a season I backed off of work allowing others to keep things going as much as possible. It was time to be with my mom. It was time to pray. To be present in the discomfort.

Slowly I grasped the grace of liminality, of not needing to worry about the past or future, but to fully hold onto the present. These weeks were times of clarity. I knew my mom would be at peace, the peace that passes understanding that Jesus promises. Not necessarily the peace I would like in this world. However, a peace that taught me to enjoy simple things like sharing hot cereal in the morning or laughing over a television show; as well as allowed me to hold her when she was going through pain I couldn’t ease.

Now I’m on the other side of that liminal space. My mother has ended her pilgrimage on earth and is in the ultimate destination – paradise. But I’m still continuing my journey here. What will it look like? There will be different companions and paths. There will be new opportunities to step out – and I want to step out more into new spaces, even those that are uncomfortable. For one thing, I have a new way to think of living a full life – not based on thinking I know what will happen or can control the outcome, but on knowing that God will be present each moment and will walk with me through it.

Categories: Journey Living | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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.

Categories: Pilgrimage Sharings | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Pilgrimage Sharings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Readings on Pilgrimage

photoThese past months many of the books I’ve opened have provided new views into pilgrimage – refining and rekindling my own vision of this type of journey. If you are looking for some ways into pilgrimage – whether a journey to a foreign land or a journey through life. Here are a few suggested readings.

In Search of Deep Faith: A Pilgrimage into the Beauty, Goodness and Heart of Christianity, Jim Belcher

Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look,and ask for the ancient paths,where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. – Jeremiah 6:16

After finishing the narrative of this pilgrimage to articulate faith, to rest, and to build a foundation for a family, I wanted even more to head out on such a journey. Quickly I was thinking about who to invite, where we would go, the focus of the time, and more. However, the journey that Belcher lays out is not only about going to lands away from home, but into the faith lives before us today. So this is where I left this book. Exploring my own search for faith – and in the back of my mind planning the next pilgrimage.

Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good, Steven Garber

This is not a head-in-the-sand, idealized view of vocation, but one of taking an honest look at the world around us – where God has placed us, with whom he has placed us, and who we are. Garber references Walker Percy’s concept of “pilgrim in the ruins.” In our lives we are on a sacred journey, but it’s not paved in gold with step-by-step directions laid out for us. Instead it’s through the reality of the brokenness of this world, including ourselves, that we find the grace of vocation.

Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life, Phileena Heuretz

“It’s a story of awakening, darkness and transformation. It’s a story of being born. It’s a story of striving to be free. As a Christian it is a story of ongoing transformation in the image of Christ.”

Phileena Heuertz’ contemplation of her sabbatical takes readers through the journey walked and the struggles and transformations that she entered along the way – through God’s grace. Don’t think you have time or need to take time for contemplation? Heuretz story shows how this seemingly quiet practice is essential, especially for those of us in the midst of an active life.

Wayfaring: Essays Pleasant and Unpleasant, Alan Jacobs

“I love the essay primarily because it is the genre par excellence of wayfaring.”  This book is an excellent example of wayfaring through writing and literature as Jacobs’ readings and musings open up new avenues of thought and adventure.

Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me, Karen Swallow Prior

“I have carried this book and many, many others, all these years. And they have made me who I am.” It was wonderful to journey with Prior through her life with books – Charlotte’s Web, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Madame Bovary, and more. So many people have been made by books and all the worlds they contain. This is a great way to get to know someone, even ourselves, and to set out on a journey.

Holy is the Day, Carolyn Weber

Carolyn Weber takes readers through a journey of living in the present, not because everything was going so well that she wanted to capture the unambiguous happiness of life, but because even in the pain – which she details through several physical and emotional struggles – there is something to realize as a gift beyond ourselves. I was drawn to her story – that of an English professor in the throes of tenure, sabbatical, publishing, raising a family, and seeking to follow God. Into this story she weaves poetry and prose – Chesterton, Lewis, Donne, Coleridge, Blake, Keats, Sayers – along with scripture – Daniel, Jonah, Jesus, Peter, Paul, Mary – providing a rich context for living.

 

So pilgrimages – journeys of transformation through stories of meaning. The paths can be through literature, our vocations, life challenges and more. Above all, God’s grace guides us as we are open and aware to see the steps before us. What readings have encouraged your thoughts on pilgrimage?

Categories: Readings | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Pilgrimage Sharings | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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?

Categories: Pilgrimage Sharings | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preparing for Pilgrimage

IMG_1409Yesterday I picked up a necklace from the jewelers. I’m sure they were wondering why I wanted this worn, silver chain fixed. It’s not really worth anything. But for me it carries great meaning. Twenty years ago I purchased this silver cross after visiting Canterbury Cathedral. Today as I get ready to journey towards a story the next two weeks – to the places of C. S. Lewis and other authors – putting this simple necklace around my neck reminds me of the reasons for these months of preparations – pilgrimage.

Preparation has always been a part of pilgrimage. If you were traveling to the Holy Land in the Middle Ages there was no guarantee that you’d be returning home, so having all your financial, familial, and spiritual obligations in order was essential. In contrast, a two week trip to England via routine routes available to pilgrims today does not warrant a full scale estate plan. But still I was overwhelmed with preparations.

  • Plan the fall schedule for campus ministry
  • Print out maps and make reservations
  • Check on health insurance
  • Pay bills and call
  • Buy that one last ‘necessary’ item

But as I shopped and finalized speakers for the fall, I also realized I was missing out on some of the more significant preparations. Yes, I read many writings of C. S. Lewis, but did not always reflecting on them deeply. At times I was more excited about crossing out another title, than understanding the writing and meaning of a given book or essay. I also stopped writing to any great extent. I definitely stopped posting on this blog. It was if time was in abeyance until all these external tasks were finished.

Clearly, one of my stories over the past months has been one of getting everything right for this trip. I wanted to have no unexpected detours or moments of anxiety. I wanted to make it antiseptic and safe. I wanted to read all the books. Yet, in the midst of all of this, there remained a whispering voice me about my reason for this trip.

Underneath all these task lists, another story has been smoldering. I yearn to walk in the steps of C.S. Lewis and other authors and to re-engage with passions for literature and writing. These yearnings drove the itinerary – Oxford, Bath, Lindisfarne, Lake District – and they calmed me down. Most importantly they nudged me to remember of the callings of this journey.

  • To encounter new and loved places and stories.
  • To meet fellow pilgrims
  • To follow the story of writers and be inspired again.
  • To refocus priorities.
  • To seek a time to relish God’s story and listen to where it may be drawing me next.

Even as I sit here in my basement home office writing, a smile is moving up from my soul to my face. I’m breathing more calmly. I can’t wait to step onto the plane.

This journey will be one of transformation, though I don’t know what kind. It’s time to stop the frantic running around and rest. As the time for departure closes in, I’ve been encouraged by the well wishes from students, friends, and family. These are definitely not a formal ritual sending, but they are their own form of blessing. They represent the community in which I live and the ways in which they encourage me.

So, as I place this old silver necklace around my neck, it is with remembrance of pilgrimages taken before and expectations for the path before me.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. Psalm 84:5

Categories: Literary Pilgrimages | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: