Posts Tagged With: readings

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?

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Stories of Haiti – Preparing for a Journey

(It’s now been a year since I made a trek to Haiti on a mission trip with a great.  The next few posts will reflect on this time.)

As I prepared to travel to Haiti on a mission trip, I realized that I really didn’t know much about this land.  Most of my knowledge came from reports following the 2010 earthquake.  So, I started to immerse myself in other stories of this foreign land.  In the midst of the physical preparations of shopping, getting vaccines, and organizing projects, I also read and questioned.

Libete: A Haiti Anthology, provided a view of a land that has been constantly invaded by outside forces – starting with Columbus; used by conquerers for resources – including France, Spain, and the U.S.; desirous of freedom and proud of its revolution – while continuing the enslaving practices of the colonizers.  Since the revolution of the slaves, a series of bad and even despicable leaders has kept the population far from prosperity. Centuries of struggle, oppression, and at times terror have shaped a populace that appears reconciled to living this way.  These readings contained shards of broken stories to be careful of when walking through the land.

Memoirs added to these stories.  Whether written by travelers, anthropologists, or novelists there remained an underlying current of anxiety mixed with the desire to move forward.  Nothing was easy or transparent in this land.  The rule of law could not be expected.  Transportation was difficult.  Basic needs weren’t met or even known.  There was always someone to fear.  Trust of those in authority was non-existent.   Yet, the country’s artists and writers were depicted as holding a key to breaking out of the country’s past and present.  They could see the land differently and move beyond the stasis that has been the modus operandi of this country for so long.

In novels I continued to see the fear that has been a central element of Haitian life: hiding and running from the authorities, crashing into blockades, being spied on.  Many of the novels were written in fear of the ruling parties.  Some were written about the past, but referring to the present. They are responding to questions.  How could this island, once the pearl of the French colonies, now be in such desperate straits?  Were they waiting for someone to save them or content with their lot?  Those from outside Haiti see a need to save it;  those within, to accept and even re-create.

One thing I noticed from these readings was the presence of creation even in the face of fear.  Hiddenness is a part of this creation.  Books were written and published outside of the country.  Masks which hide a person’s face are an important art form in Jacmel.  Even the spiritual life is hidden – at least that of voudou.  Churches are visible across the country, but the popular religion, voudou, takes place in secret. It’s not something with which an outsider can connect.

Yet, even as Haitians live within the boundaries of their country, they find ways to create dangerously – as Edgwidge Danticat writes.  These stories helped me better understand the land to which I would be traveling – not primarily as a place in need of help from outside, but a place with a rich history that would teach.  It was also a place where the team could look for opportunities to create together.

Some Haitian readings:

Libete: A Haiti Anthology.  Ed. Charles Arthur and Michael Dash.  1999.

The Kingdom of This World.  Alejo Carpentier.  1957.

Love, Anger, Madness: A Haitian Triptych.  Marie Vieux-Chauvet.  Trans.  Rose-Myriam Rejouis and Val Vinokur.  2010.

The Comedians.  Graham Greene.  1966.

Bonjour Blanc: A Journey Through Haiti.  Ian Thomson.  1992.

After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti.  Edwidge Danticat.  2002.

Mountains Beyond Mountains.  Tracy Kidder.  2003.

Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work.  Edwidge Danticat.  2010.

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