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Dispatches: Pilgrimage Postscript

Jeff and Shelley are on a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain for a couple weeks! We’re excited to be able to share updates about their journey, what they experience, and what God shows them on their adventure.

Today is a day of reflection before we leave Santiago. We attended the beautiful and moving Pilgrim’s Mass at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Although I couldn’t understand most of the priest’s words other than peregrino (pilgrim) and camino, his heart and compassion for the 1200+ people gathered was very clear. As I prayed for myself and the other pilgrims, God impressed this passage on my heart:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30

Some around me had tears in their eyes, but others looked bored and some were even pushing around to get a better view. Let me be honest – that really bothered me, but I held my tongue.

The invitation to come to the Lord is open to everyone. All are welcome to find the deep rest of the soul that we all long for. God seeks to restore that most important part in us, our soul, the fountain from which our life flows.

The way continues for me as before, maybe clearer and stronger. I seek to use my strength, skill, words, heart, and time to help people find Him, Jesus, the one who restores the soul.

Many seek, and we are here to help them find the Way: a living relationship with Him.

I  would rather be a door keeper in the house of the Lord then anything else.

-Jeff

P.S.

I love my church! You live out a faith that is real and honest. You are so inspiring to me. God has an extraordinary year ahead of us. I can’t wait to worship with you again!

Dispatches: The Final Steps

Jeff and Shelley are on a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain for a couple weeks! We’re excited to be able to share updates about their journey, what they experience, and what God shows them on their adventure.

The last portion of the Camino is called the Royal Way. Pilgrims would stop to wash their feet as a way to cleanse themselves before entering the city.

Three thoughts dominate my thinking at the end of our journey:

1. I do not walk alone. I have felt His presence constantly and clearly on this trip. The song “Oceans” plays in my mind, with the words “I will call upon your name.” I call, and He always answers. His answer moves me to tears even as I try to type on my iPad. “I am yours and you are mine!” Can it be? That truth is just so wonderful, so amazing, and I embrace it fully. I am his and he is mine. I have been and never will be alone.

2. As we entered the noisy city and began the long climb up to Saint James Cathedral, I was reminded of what I strove for as a follower. Matthew writes about a parable which praises a follower by saying “Well done, good and faithful servant!” My heart longed for my Heavenly Father to say those words at the end of my journey: “Well done. You did good and you were faithful. You did not give up.” And as we entered the square, the sweet voice of God whispered in my soul, “Well done, son.” As my eyes filled with tears, I whispered back,”Thanks, Dad.”

3. Shelley’s reflection moved me the most. As we drew near the square, she remembered all the different people we have met or seen. Some had traveled 30 days; others, less. They look different, sound different, and travel at different paces, yet we are all the same. Some of us have been walking with God a long time and some are walking in a brand-new faith. Others are still searching for the Prince of Peace. But we all ended up in that square in front of the cathedral. We celebrated together because the Way is not about the road, but about the people. That is the heart of God. Heaven will be like that, too – the road will fall away and we will gather together for a single purpose: to celebrate the one who is The Way, the Truth, and the Life.

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I long for all to know Him in a real and personal way. I thank God for the strength he has given me and for the desire to use every ounce of that strength to show others the way to Him so that they may hear for themselves, “I am yours and you are mine,” and find peace.

-Jeff

Dispatches: Follow The Arrows

Jeff and Shelley are on a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain for a couple weeks! We’re excited to be able to share updates about their journey, what they experience, and what God shows them on their adventure.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” John 15: 5-6

I have long been smitten with concepts. They engage my mind, rustle my thought process. Unconditional love as a concept has transported me to intellectual nirvana, motivated the reading of at least fifty books on related themes, and deluded me into believing that I was there. Until along came a day when I was appalled to discover that nothing had changed.

Until the love of God that knows no boundary, limit, or breaking point is internalized through personal decision; until the furious longing of God seizes the imagination; until the heart is conjoined to the mind through sheer grace, nothing happens. Brennan Manning

Self-deception is so easy. It is quiet and treacherous. Even in the realm of love, we struggle with it.

On the Camino, we follow markers with yellow scallop shells or yellow arrows painted on the road or a building, like these:

If you aren’t careful, you can miss an arrow and get off track. Or you can feel deceived, because the arrow is pointing down a narrow rocky path that kinda looks like it leads to someone’s back yard. Surely we’re meant to stay on the broad, well-paved path…right? That makes more sense…

And just like, that I am off the path.

Jesus said that when I am apart from him, I can do nothing. When I struggle to love unconditionally, it is because I have gone my own direction.

It’s not easy to stay on “the Way.” I find myself mentally and physically fatigued at the end of each day. But if I am going to follow Him, and arrive where he desires; if my life is to bear much fruit; if I’m going to be able to love as he loves…well, it’s quite simple. With open arms and an open heart and an open soul, I embrace Jesus with every step, every breath, and every encounter.

-Jeff

Dispatches: The Truth, Honestly

Jeff and Shelley are on a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain for a couple weeks! We’re excited to be able to share updates about their journey, what they experience, and what God shows them on their adventure.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6: 8

As we listen to the heartbeat of the Rabbi, we will hear words of reassurance: “I’ve told you all this beforehand. Shh! Be still. I am here. All is well.” Brennan Manning

Today was hard: up before dawn, long miles, and lots of hills. We traveled through cities that demanded our attention along the way.

As I reflected on those passages, this simple thought came to my mind: Lord, you have been showing me so much of what it means to walk humbly before you and that has blessed my life so much. Is there more?

The word “honesty” filled my mind and I meditated on it all day. What is it to be honest with myself, with others, and, most importantly, before God?

The trail can be called “honest” because it just…exists. It simply is. You choose to walk it or you don’t. There is a beauty in the simplicity of it all. I believe God was using the Camino and those passages to show me how simple and honest it is to be in relationship with Him. I need to not complicate it – I just need to be honest in it.

Our new friend Kay from New Zealand said her husband Bruce would always tell the children, “There is nothing more simple than the truth. It just is.”

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

Honestly, it is all about Jesus. That’s simply, clearly, the truth. When you know where the road leads, it is easier to walk. That is my truth for today.

-Jeff

Dispatches: Who Are You Walking With?

Jeff and Shelley are on a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain for a couple weeks! We’re excited to be able to share updates about their journey, what they experience, and what God shows them on their adventure.

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1: 6-7

Joy and sorrow; ease and hardship. God is always in both because He is always with us. Am I open to experiencing his presence always, or only in the mountaintop moments?

It was a challenging day on the Camino, aka “the Way,” going up and down hills, struggling through a hot afternoon. Yet God is with me, if I will guide my soul to a place of awareness. I have to look up and around, not just at the trail in front of my feet.

When I look up, I look beyond my self. I see past my selfishness, past the part that just wants to focus on how things are affecting me.

When I looked up, I saw beauty, stillness, and the rhythm  of nature. I saw God at work all around me. My heart rejoiced, simply saying, “Thanks, God – you do good work.”

I also saw people. On the Camino, you call yourself and others pilgrims. Were they what God wanted me to see? We travel with 100+ people, crossing paths time and again as different groups stop at different places. At those stops, we hear the stories of the different reasons people are here. The common theme is a searching.

At times we walk in small groups; other times we walk in quiet solitude. Shelley and I fall into a comfortable quietness as we walk together, each giving the other space to just be as we journey.

I think of all the great gifts of friends God has given me. They’re like “the Way:” sometimes we are in large groups enjoying the time together, other times we form small groups or just share the journey one-on-one. Sometimes I walk alone – oh, I have friends, and a community, but I sometimes haves stretches where just I walk solo.

I believe the genuineness of our faith is strongly revealed in how we treat others, through joy and sorrow, ease and hardship. We are created by God to walk together. It is what God is teaching me about living with open arms – I want to be open to the people around me, to be used of God to show love, grace and value. I have a long way to go, but that’s okay – Jesus walks with me.

-Jeff

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