Take Nothing For The Journey

If there is anything that I have struggled with in life – and I struggle to this day with it – is the whole notion of taking nothing for the journey. A look at Luke 9:3 reminds us of Jesus’ words:

He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.

This one is very tough for me as I am known to leave the house for the 11 mile journey to my office with big tote full of things. I mean – it is not exactly a remote outpost where I will be stranded for a few weeks.

We are called, as followers of Jesus, to be a pilgrim people and to be reminded that we are completely dependent on God for what we need. I mean – I do know that!

However, like most of what we are called to do as followers of Christ, it is much easier to talk about than to do. And in this case, I can barely talk about it!

Here we are, always on a journey and while I don’t want to rush us to a liturgical season far away, we are on a journey to Gethsemane, to Golgotha… It’s not like one will need a lot for those places; what one will need is to be stripped away of the things that keep us from that journey and that keep us from Christ.

This is not a treatise for me – or you – or anyone to get rid of all their stuff! Although I might be talking to myself about the material stuff as well as some other pesky layers that come between Jesus and me…

The image at the top of this post was taken almost 6 years ago, as I was climbing Huayna Picchu, the mountain next to Machu Picchu. One day I will write that story, it has yet to come out of me, but it is about a day that changed my life and a day in which a very heavy backback and my fear of heights – two things I needed to let go of – made an already extraordinary day, even more so. And not always in a good way!

That is why I read two blogs with great interest this morning, after having prayed and pondered some personal matters of journey and a lighter load.

First I read Claire’s second blog, Strolling to Compostelle. Now you may be aware of her primary blog, A Seat at the Table, but this other blog is about her upcoming pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, or Compostelle in her native French.

I have longed to make this journey, but I don’t know if I will ever do it. Claire and her husband have gone multiple times and in fact, will take a very different route for this camino, La Via de la Plata.  It is hard to imagine actually making this trip, but so much of my life is unlikely in how it has worked out, that I am hopeful that one day I will go.

In any event, I read Claire’s words and am reminded of what such an undertaking means… and just what one has to consider before taking the first step. This is a demanding journey. You know – like life is.

Speaking of the demands of life, the other blog that really connected for me this morning was Margaret’s blog, Leave It Lay. I can actually remember with startling clarity the first time I ever read her blog. It had a physical impact upon me, I was blown back in my chair!

At the header of her blog you will find these words, “pick it up. look it over. put it down. leave it lay where Jesus flang it.” Talk about take nothing for the journey! And I recall what I think was her first post – a video of Nada Te Turbe, which now resides on her sidebar. 

In any case, Margaret, an Episcopal priest, and her husband Joel are about to move from Virginia to… Well, you see that is just it, they don’t know where they are moving. So for Margaret, it really is about taking very little for the journey, isn’t it?  To that end, they are having the “biggest, baddest, best yard sale evah today,” in order to do just that. 

(As an aside, I recently  bought some books from the biggest, baddest, best Amazon used bookseller and I highly recommend it. It is officially called Joel’s Books, but let me tell you that the books that he and Margaret, “flang there” are amazing. Go have a look – religion, history and more! Pick them up, look them over and take them for at least a portion of your journey by buying some of them!)

And not unlike Claire, preparing for her pilgrimage, it is about trust and taking the one thing you need most.

Yes – that would be faith.

Striking about Margaret, at least as I “read” it via email and in reading her blog, is her ever present sense of joy. I am not using this blogpost as a way to define joy and happiness, two very different things, but bear that in mind. At least when I interact with her online, I sense the bubbling of a spring and the feel of a strong breeze that will impel me along on my journey. Which at the moment, is nothing like this.

My point, my ever-long-winded point is this – how can we take nothing for the journey? How do we “fix our eyes on the hills,” even when we don’t know where the hills are?

These are two very different – yet similar women – about to undertake two very different – yet similar journeys. Please keep them in your prayers and thoughts. One journey chosen and deliberate and the other… well actually, truth be told, anyone who calls their blog “Leave it Lay,” is making a chosen and deliberate journey as well.

All of our journeys are chosen, even when we don’t seem to be choosing them; they are quite deliberate for those of us who have made the decision to follow Christ. So whatever that means, this is a journey that is not about what and how you pack, but about the opposite.

And for a tote-bag-toting woman like me, I continue my challenge.

Prayers and blessings for Claire, Margaret and for all of those who stand at the crossroads and wonder where to go and what to take.

Yes or No? Yes and No!

Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem, November 2004. Taken by me.

I was not going to post today but as I prayed earlier and as I got ready for work, the need to write about the Feast of the Assumption and/or yesterday’s Gospel about Jesus and the Canannite woman was persistent. It was even more pressing after finding these three thought provoking posts, one from Ginny Kubitz Moyer, one from Philomena Ewing (ok two from Phil, see this one also,) and one from Claire Bangasser.

Which brings me to a question I would simply like to pose for today… Yes or No? As usual, I go for the both/and approach and come up with Yes and No!

The Canaanite woman will not take no for an answer. She went to Jesus in good faith for healing for her daughter and was not going to go away quietly. Once again we meet a woman, not even a Jew, persistently going to Jesus for help. He is even pretty clear that she is not who he came to save!

She says – no, you must help me. Even the dogs get scraps!

Today we have another Marian feast to ponder, the Dormition of the Theotokos or what we Catholics call the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mary has not said no – in fact, she has said “yes.” It is Mary’s yes that changed the world!

What is it for you  in life – the Yes or the No?

We must exercise both? How does this work in your life? I hope you comment here; I’d love to know what you think.

We Have Nothing

I was reading Claire’s blog this morning and she quoted Jessica Powers. Powers was a Carmelite nun and poet; you can read more about her at this link.

Reading Powers’ words suddenly drew me back to another chapter of my life; one early in my return to Church. A then-priest then-friend of mine gave me a book of Jessica Powers’ poetry and this helped me to find my way when I felt lost.

Then I went looking around and found this gem.

If You Have Nothing
The gesture of a gift is adequate.
If you have nothing: laurel leaf or bay
no flower, no seed, no apple gathered late,
do not in desperation lay
the beauty of your tears upon the clay.
No gift is proper to a Deity;
no fruit is worthy for such power to bless.
If you have nothing, gather back your sigh,
and with your hands held high, your heart held high,
lift up your emptiness!
-Jessica Powers, OCD

We have nothing, that is for certain. All is gift, all is from God. And no gift is proper for such a generous God.

So today, I will simply do as Powers’ suggests; I will gather my sigh, hold my hands and my heart up and reveal that great emptiness to this great God that brings us from nothing to everything.

Thanks be to God.