Walking the trail
One step followed by another. Crunching along the gravel trail as the morning mists dissipate. Moisture dripping from trees. Mounds of acorns and hazelnuts lining the trail. Cafe con leche in a trailside restaurant. Shadowing dairy cattle as they move from their milking barns to the fields. Sore knees. Blisters. Trailside shrines to lost loved ones. Fellow pilgrims from all over the world. Pilgrims walking to forget. Pilgrims walking to remember. Pilgrims walking and hoping to connect with God. Pilgrims walking in hopes there is a God. Pilgrims walking who don’t believe in God, but who are drawn to this place for some mysterious reason that they cannot put a finger on. Maybe it’s God?
There’s simply no place like the Camino de Santiago. I believe it’s a “thin place,” a spot in the world where the eternal is somehow present in an authentic sense to our temporal hearts. We will go back – maybe you should consider joining us next year!
We find a fascinating description of prayer in 1 Samuel 3:19. The writer describes Samuel as he grows up in the temple under the tutelage of the high priest, Eli. The scriptures say that, the Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.
So, apparently you can pray and have your words, fall to the ground. I wonder how many of my prayers have done so? I’m guessing enough to trip over, or even enough to be buried under. How many selfish and insincere prayers never make it to the Lord? Across my lips and straight to the earth.
Food for thought the next time you pray. Try to imagine where your prayers might be going – to the Lord, or to the floor?
How do you approach the controversy that has sprung up this year concerning racial supremacy? As one who tries to live with the Bible as the primary guide to how to live and how to relate to others, I want to let the Scriptures inform my thoughts.
Here are two passages that have been in my mind the last few weeks:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
This is a radial passage and was understood as such when Paul wrote it. He intended it to shock, to show his readers that all are valuable in the economy of eternity. There are no differences before God. All ethic groups, all genders, all stations of life are of equal worth to Jesus.
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.
The language used here for “nation” means “ethnos.” So, literally every ethnic group in the world will stand before the throne of God and worship. The only supremacy belongs to the Lamb of God.
If this is the picture of the future the Lord has planned for us, then I can see no reason to hold to a theory of racial supremacy today. All are valued by God and all will be represented before the throne. Let us treat our fellow citizens with at least some of the respect that the Lord has endowed into each person born into this world.
This week Dawn and I and several friends are walking the ancient pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago, or “the way of Saint James.” We’re following signs like the one pictured to the right and enjoying the beauty of northern Spain as we walk the 70 miles to the cathedral in Santiago.
Pilgrims have been following this trail for over 1,000 years. It’s a “thin place” where the spiritual world and the temporal world are somehow closer together. We are excited to make this walk again.
Maybe next year some of you will join us?
Lots of young men live in poverty and these water stations are their place to bath. Notice the man in the lower left who’s soaped up and ready to rinse.
Notice the tip of my finger in the lower left as well!
New York City skyline April 2017
I’m flying today, on 9/11, headed to Orlando for Cru leadership meetings*. Since the attacks on New York City on September 11, 2001, I’ve flown several times on this day. It’s always a little eerie and everyone at the airport always seems a bit more serious.
I’m reminded of the many victims from that day. If you would, take a minute and pray with me for their families and friends as they relive a day that is burned in their memories. Pray also for our world, that we could somehow avoid another day such as that one.
* Due to Hurricane Irma, I’m no longer going to Orlando. But my thoughts about 9/11 remain the same.
Today is Labor Day, the holiday where we rest from our labors and honor those who work for a living. Here’s a couple of things I notice about people who labor. One, some people work harder for their money than others. Two, some people do really important jobs and yet our society pays them much less than they are worth. Others do what are in reality trivial jobs, but get paid massive amounts of money.
It’s easy to see. A great teacher, for example, is of much more value to the long-term health and development of a society than a great entertainer. However, a great entertainer can make 100x the salary of a great teacher in one year. Or how about those who fight our fires and protect our lives, as opposed to CEOs who depend on that basic level of safety to build and to make their companies profitable? Even lousy CEOs tend to be compensated at a much higher rate than excellent firefighters and rescue personnel.
As I read recently in this blog post by Seth Godin, our society does not always match money to contribution. Profitable is not the same as important. Sometimes it is, but often it is not. Think about it – who has influenced you the most profoundly in your life, a great teacher or a great entertainer? For most of us, it’s the contribution of the lowly paid teaching professional that helped set the trajectory of our life.
Today on this Labor Day, let us remember those who work in jobs that serve and promote the common good in our world. This day is for those heroes, regardless of how much money they make this year.
Of the many intriguing people you read about in scripture, Benaiah is one of my favorites. He was a famous warrior, one of King David’s “mighty men.” He fought and defeated powerful enemies of Israel. And while there were other great warriors in that day, Benaiah performed something unique, described in 1 Chronicles 11, which fascinates me to no end.
We are told that he “climbed down into a pit and killed a lion on a snowy day.” Wait, what? It seems that there are three unusual aspects to this story. One, snowy days were rare in this part of the world. Two, a lion in a pit was also uncommon. And three, a guy that would choose to climb down into that pit and fight that lion was one of a kind.
Was this a trap of some kind? Was the lion defending something valuable? Or when coming upon the lion in the pit did Benaiah’s buddies say, “I bet you can’t kill that lion,” and Ben said, “watch me,” and then hopped into the pit. I suspect it’s reason #3. That’s how guys role sometimes.
I don’t know why this story is included in the Bible, except that Benaiah is so badass that the author just couldn’t leave it out. You can’t make this stuff up. Regardless of the circumstances, all I know is that if there’s one guy from the Bible I’d want on my side in a fight, it would be Benaiah.
We find the story in 1 Kings 19. As Elijah stands outside his cave and waits for the Lord to speak, he first experiences a mighty rushing wind, near hurricane force. So powerful, this must be the Lord!
But the Lord was not in the wind.
Then, a massive earthquake. Surely, this is how the Lord sets foot on the earth.
But the Lord was not in the earthquake.
Next, a wildfire consuming the countryside. Of course, the Lord is like fire and everything He touches is lit ablaze.
But the Lord was not in the fire.
Then Elijah hears something soft. He turns his head in that direction. It’s an almost imperceptible brush against his ear, a quiet passing, merely a whisper.
It is the Lord. God is found in the whisper.
I love the way the Lord is so counter-intuitive. We think that when the Lord speaks He does so by smashing his way into our lives. God finds it better to whisper. We must listen, pay attention, cock our ear away from the noise of our culture and towards quiet places. Why do so many people find that they feel closer to God when out in the nature? Because it’s quiet. Learn to cultivate times and places of quiet, for it is there that we find the Lord.
This week I’m at Cru’s World Stint Briefing in Chicago. We’re training and preparing close to 500 missionaries who will leave here in a few days to go throughout the world to reach students this next year. Many will go to difficult, hard-to-reach places. Most will be challenged by living in a foreign culture and being away from home this next year. All will return with fresh eyes for how God works and how God is moving among young people the world over.
We often hear in our world about something “changing everything,” which many times is no more than an advertising slogan. However, when one of these young people brings the message of the gospel to another young person who’s never heard the good news, then truly everything in their life begins to change. Hope replaces despair. Meaning replaces loss. God enters a life. The world changes, one person at a time.
Would you take a minute a pray for these fresh missionaries? Our prayers help pave the way for the conversations they will be having this year and, through our prayers, we get to join with them in changing the world.