Post-Camino Thoughts

My walking across bits and pieces of the top of Spain on the Camino de Santiago is now well behind me. But for sure it shall remain an absolute gift of an experience.

Last night, someone asked me what was the best thing about it. I had to think because the whole experience was so diverse. But then I realized that when all was said and done, the best thing was probably the times of solitary contemplation, aided by that repetitive crunch of boots on crushed granite paths.

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It was a time to disengage from the routine, the rituals, the normal, the predictable. A time to listen instead of speak. A time to be quiet. And a time to let the thoughts run free. Not easy at first I must admit, as our brains seem to thrive on multitasking, anticipating, planning, reviewing, assessing, adjusting. But after a while, when the swirling clouds of thoughts finally settled down and the air cleared, the Camino offered up a quiet place. A place to listen.

And then, out of the blue – twice it happened – a deep, overwhelming sense of being loved and valued and embraced and held and cared for. It hit me deeply. I cried.

On the plane home to California, they had a whole bunch of movies available. Scrolling through, wouldn’t you know it, there was one about the Camino. In German (with subtitles), called  “I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago.”

Of course, I had to watch it. And boom, right there on the screen, the same thing happened to the main character, Hape. Standing on the path on a Spanish hillside, there he was, bawling his eyes out… and once again I found big hot tears rolling down my face too. Kind of embarrassing sitting so close to my fellow Lufthansa passenger.

So what was that all about? Honestly, an awareness of how passionately I am valued and loved by the One who created me. Theology, schmeology. I don’t really care how it is all supposed to neatly fit together, be explained, or rationalized. As someone said, “you walk your own Camino.” So I did. And that’s what happened.

Looking across those extensive fields of green and gold, you could feel quite small and insignificant, yet simply putting one foot in front of the other on this millennia-old trail, yielded a huge sense of worth, of meaning, of significance. It somehow strangely authenticated my faith.

And that is the same faith I carry when I walk here now I’m home. Being detached to get perspective and to receive that amazing sense of affirmation was an incredible gift. But to be authentic, it has to get outworked here in the daily grind too. It has to cause me to act and take a stand when the news is horrific as it has been out of Orlando of late. It has to cause me to act when I learn of someone being marginalized or shunned because of their identity. What use is my solitary journey if it doesn’t result in me being a better carrier of the Good News – to my wife, my children, my friends and fellow travelers, those to my left and to my right that I encounter on the journey.

And so, in a very real way, the Camino continues… because an ancient path in northern Spain is actually no more significant than the one I get to walk today, right here, right now.

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The Camino Decided Otherwise

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Plans to make this blog the place where you could walk with me—so to speak—along selected areas of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, ended up going somewhat south. Patchy wifi, and then having promised to share “tons of photos” made me realize that here wasn’t going to be the place to do that. And as much as I wanted to gather my thoughts and impressions and contemplations and give them written form, reality (or perhaps the Camino) has won out.

Practically, I think that those of you who have indicated you’d like to follow me are probably also on Facebook, and it has ended up that it’s there that I have and will continue to upload a daily overview of my time on the Camino together with some photos and notations. So I hope that you take the time to check out what I have shared there. Again, spotty wifi may occasionally thwart my plans, but sit tight, as hopefully the next albergue or bar or public place will have “the code” and let me carry on with my postings.

People say that you don’t choose the Camino…. the Camino chooses you. So I guess in this case the Camino is also choosing what I do and do not do online. And for that I am very thankful.

¡Gracias a todos!

Time out.

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No, I wasn’t naughty. (Love that word – Americans don’t seem to use it much, but perhaps it’s because when they say it, it sounds like Big Ears’ friend. Not that the most Americans would know who Big Ears is either. 😉 Anyway, I digress. No, not naughty.

Time out. Time to leave the known and predictable for a couple of weeks and go for a walk.

For a few centuries, serious pilgrims would go for a walk too. While their experience was probably quite a bit different from the one on which I’m about to embark, I think the rationale is sort of similar. An opportunity to disengage and disconnect. An opportunity to reflect, to consider, to contemplate. To get some distance and some perspective.

I read this from Richard Rohr (a beloved Catholic theologian) just yesterday and it seemed so appropriate for this little time out… take a look at what he has to say.

“What is contemplation? Simply put, contemplation is entering a deeper silence and letting go of our habitual thoughts, sensations, and feelings. You may know contemplation by another name. Many religions use the word meditation. Christians often use the word prayer. But for many in the West, prayer has come to mean something functional, something you do to achieve a desired effect, which puts you back in charge. Prayers of petition aren’t all bad, but they don’t really lead to a new state of being or consciousness. The same old consciousness is self-centered: How can I get God to do what I want God to do? This kind of prayer allows you to remain an untransformed, egocentric person who is just trying to manipulate God.

That’s one reason why religion is in such desperate straits today: it isn’t really transforming people. It’s merely giving people some pious and religious ways to again be in charge and in control. It’s still the same small self or what Merton called the false self. Mature, authentic spirituality calls us into experiences and teachings that open us to an actual transformation of consciousness (Romans 12:2). I think some form of contemplative practice is necessary to be able to detach from your own agenda, your own anger, your own ego, and your own fear. We need some practice that touches our unconscious conditioning where all our wounds and defense mechanisms lie. That’s the only way we can be changed at any significant or lasting level.”

While that might be a little too “deep” for some, it struck a chord with me. And gave my little jaunt on the Camino de Santiago, my time out, some validation.

Stay close. I will share here anything that strikes me as important, or at least some images that I think you might enjoy.

And don’t forget to “follow” so you’ll get notified by email that I have written something.

El viaje comienza.

Slap One On – Part Dos*

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Last time I wrote about the way that people use labels to control others and ended by suggesting that instead we might choose to affirm and encourage.

Upon further reflection, I realized that it might actually be helpful for those who’d like to be on this unexpected journey with me, to know a little more about the person they are traveling with. Perhaps a little “self-labeling” might be in order.

So what labels do I apply to myself?

Here’s a few to go on with. Some I had no choice in. Others I did choose. Ask me about any. 

British born. New Zealand raised. Green-carded.

Christ-follower. Trying. 

Formerly Fundie (a shout out to Benjamin L. Corey for my brazen appropriation of that label!)

Husband – Father – Grandfather

Friend and Mentor

Designer – I specialize in corporate branding

Intactivist. Big time. 

Advocate.

Espresso-lover, dark chocolate and red wine too. (OK, the occasional NZ sauv blanc.)

Speedo wearer. (If you doubt yourself, wear something else.)

Chef (wannabe). 

Piano player. 

Grateful. 

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I found this cartoon last year by David Hayward (naked pastor.com) …. It pretty much sums up how I view things these days. Lines that have been arbitrarily drawn and abusively enforced by men (especially “religious” males) are progressively being erased by Jesus to better reflect God’s heart. May my journey look like this too. 

Ask me about any of the above. It’s ok. They’re my labels. I stuck them on myself. 

😉

* And oh, about the asterisk on Part Dos*… it’s because my next blog post will probably originate somewhere in Spain. Not sure where, but my journey is taking me on an abbreviated version of the Camino de Santiago. Follow me and you’ll get a bit of a photographic travelogue.

Slap one on.

Hello My Name Is

Labels.

Handy things when you want to know more about what’s inside. But my experience is that all too often they are used to “contain” people.

A couple of years back I had a church leader ask me a very specific question about where I stood on a certain issue. He insisted on a yes/no answer.

I knew what he was trying to do. Thankfully a few weeks earlier I had jotted down the following in my iPhone as I was reading a commentary by Andrew Marin….

“It strikes me as odd that in an increasingly pluralistic and post-modern society, there is still a seeming addiction to closed-ended, one-word, YES or NO answers that sum up an entire worldview and perspective that tells me if you’re one of ‘us’ or one of ‘them’ – if I can trust you or if I should despise you, if you’re for me or against me — and all that I stand for.”

So I told him, “Sorry. I’m not going to answer that because the moment I do, you’ll slap a label on me and assume that attitudes, behaviors, paradigms and prejudices associated with that label are mine too.”

Of course, since I wouldn’t answer his binary question, he labeled me anyway. And I was neatly put in a box. The following week, I received an email from him letting me know that I was no longer permitted to serve at his church because of what I stood for. Because I was a [insert label.]

Not surprisingly, the labeling has increased since that time. First came “liberal.” [Never been called a liberal in my life!]  And then “liberal” turned into “heretic.” Yes, even named as such from the pulpit. And of course, the thought police have been quick to both endorsed and add to the list. But I shouldn’t have been surprised.

I remembered that in Jesus’ day, the religious leaders also tried to exert control by using labels. They disparaged Jesus’ birthplace, the events surrounding his birth, who he associated with, called him out for the things he did, the things he didn’t do.The labels flew freely. “Friend of sinners” was a big one.

Yet I guess labeling is something we all do when we feel threatened. Religious leaders do it when their theology or abusive behavior comes under scrutiny. Political leaders do it to deflect blame or criticism. And we’ve all done it since we were kids—out of self-defense, or in an attempt to empower ourselves—typically at someone else’s expense. And often it works.

One of my girls reminded me recently of something I used to say when I wanted them to treat each other with more respect. “Make every word a gift.” Perhaps a little trite. But it got the idea across. And I guess it stuck since they were the ones reminiscing about it.

So how about we turn labeling on its head. Let’s engage the power of labeling in the opposite way. Label for good. Speak encouragement, speak value, speak wholeness, speak affirmation, speak promise, speak hope, speak love. Let’s label those we meet on the journey in ways so that they will be fed be nurtured. Let our labels speak life to them.

And make every label a gift.

And so it begins…

I have been amassing thoughts, ideas, reactions, and rants for a number of years now—all neatly tucked away in Notes on my various Apple devices. Although I have stated my intent to start a blog on numerous occasions, now seems to be the time to make good on my promise.

So why now? Well, as some friends know, my Facebook wall tends to be somewhat schizophrenic with posts of cute grandkids one day, passionate pleas on a human rights issue on another, followed by a mini travelogue on the next. Some things are totally appropriate for one audience, but a bit of punch in the gut for others.

Not that being so diverse is a problem, but there are times when I really would like to go deeper, express greater passion, rant more, and provide resources and insights that go beyond. The past five or so years have taken me on a path that was totally unexpected—hence the blog title —because it wasn’t a journey that I had any idea I would be taking. But oh,  what a journey it has become! And I do want to share it with my friends.

I will elaborate as time goes on with how and why… but as with any journey, it starts by simply putting one foot in front of the other.

And this is the first step.