Wait – what?

photoHot, huffing, and puffing, I was four days into my camino. Strangely enough, my knees were not bothering me nearly as much as I imagined they would, nor were my legs too sore, but I was dogged by blisters. And by the overstimulated exhaustion that can come about in the pursuit of a dream. Four days in, I was still a Camino Santiago neophyte without a clue.

Making it to the top of Alto del Perdon was no joke. It was not as steep as it was to get from St. Jean Pied de Port to Orisson, nor was as long and hard as it was to keep going uphill from there on the way to Roncesvalles. It was however hot! And again, those blisters. Ouchie. Anyway, making it to the top of Alto del Perdon was also a glorious moment – what a famous spot for those who know the Way of St. James! It is the place where the “the path of the wind meets the path of the stars.” In a word – magical.

Alto Sue Fran DeeanneLike most matters of faith, the high is often followed by a challenge. So consumed was I with getting up Alto del Perdon, I gave little thought to getting down. An essential camino lesson for me was this – going down is often far worse than going up. As we began our descent, my weariness gave way to an overwhelming anxiety with each footfall on the steep and rocky path. In fact, I felt certain that I might not be able to get down. I simply believed that I could not do it. And you know where that kind of thinking gets you.

nicodemus nightIn today’s Gospel from John, Nicodemus pays a visit to Jesus. At night. I love this imagery, poor old Nicodemus sneaking into see Jesus under the cover of darkness. It is a real struggle for Nicodemus to understand what it means to be “born again” and to be “born of the Spirit.” Here he is wrestling, like anyone who is inclined to being too literal, wondering how a “man once grown old” gets back into the womb to be born again. As usual, Jesus is trying to tell him. Jesus speaks to us in ways that leave us no place to go but deep into our hearts. Our literal and practical heads won’t allow us to understand, although our literal, practical – you know, our “realistic” heads – the ones that we value in the material world. Overvalue, it would seem.  Nicodemus is basically saying, “Wait – what?” Continue reading

Timeless Surrender

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Like pretty much everyone else, I can’t wait for tomorrow to be over. When I was on Camino, I was marginally aware of what was going on, but I really tried to tune out. Not having TV, newspapers, or a lot of time to look at my phone was a great antidote to election-obsession. Well, now I am back. As I try not to be obsessed, I am more aware and more focused on the news.

A particular thought goes through my mind as I listen to the doomsday predictions of what will happen if Continue reading

Where it happens

meseta-after-castrojeriz

The Meseta, somewhere after Castrojeriz, but before Fromista

It is very hard to go on Camino Santiago. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. At the beginning – if you start in St Jean Pied de Port – you are faced with a strenuous climb on day one. That’s true even if you only go as far as Orisson on that day, like we did. On day two you continue to face a big climb, followed by a big descent. Then you arrive at Roncesvalles where arrival at the albergue is pretty much the opposite of the intimate and warm greeting at Orrison. Crowds, shouted orders, lines, food tickets and more.  It was disorienting to say the least, not to mention the exhaustion, the questions (why am I here?) and more.

Days follow, more trials and challenges. You come to find that everything in Spain in uphill. Well, almost everything it seems. Then you realize that uphill is difficult, but downhill – that stuff will mess you up! It is worse! Soon enough you believe you will be fine because you are on the Meseta. The thing is, it is not always flat, but it is hot, dry, dusty, and desolate, providing its own brand of challenge.

Now if I am making the Camino sound awful, slow down. It is amazing, but it is no stroll in the park. The point is, going on Camino is a gift and privilege, but it is also a big challenge. It is hard.

Yet, here is what may be even harder – returning home and re-entering the stream of life. That’s hard too, at least after 48 hours. I am so happy to be back home and with Mark. I loved taking my own shower in my own bathroom and sleeping in my own bed.

The Camino happens not only in Spain, but it happens in the “room” that is one’s heart. And I need to stay in the “room where it happens.” (Sorry, can’t resist a #Hamilton reference!)  So my question today is this… how will I do this?

The answer? So far, I do not know, but I know that my Camino heart-room is the anchor that must keep me from drifting. There’s no going back to either who I was before I left, and there’s no going back to Spain. At least not right now, regarding the latter.

Today my prayer is that I can stay in the room where it happens… no matter where I am. You cannot stay on the Camino for your entire life, but you can stay on pilgrimage in your heart.

Oh – one more thing. All that challenge and misery inducing climbing and descending and walking through the long, lonely flats? It is great and wonderful and powerful and beautiful! Why? Because that is how God invites you to the change of being physically, emotionally, and spiritually stronger. But only if you allow God to do so. And only if you allow yourself to stay put in the room of your heart with God. I’ll be working on that, as I worked on my lung capacity and leg strength at the beginning of my Camino, with every step a prayer.