He Called Me a WHAT?

 

“In the end, everyone can understand themselves only. You are the only one to which you never have to explain what you mean. Everything else is misunderstanding.” ~ Renate Dorrestein

 

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An unfortunate New World reality is one that forces modern-day pilgrims to consider a disquieting proposition early on.

You must consider whether you will “plug” or “unplug,” that is whether you will remove yourself from the world of technology during the sacred time of pilgrimage, or whether you will bring it along for the ride. As previously described, it was an evolutionary process for me as I ultimately decided I’d chronicle my journey electronically across Spain for family and friends, and to go so far as to convey what I “felt” as it all transpired.

By and large, it was a good decision. In fact, it was the absolute right decision for me. At certain moments, however, it made things much more difficult than they had to be.

When you make the decision I made to remain connected to people across the world, and to share thoughts, feelings, even philosophies and beliefs in a transparent way, you must also accept that you’ve invited people to disagree with you, call your convictions into question, and even, at times, act a fool. That’s the deal you make, and it’s precisely why I advise just about everyone who goes on pilgrimage to take a serious electronic break. Unplug, for God’s sake. Seriously, and literally.

But if you don’t, it’s even more important to realize how your environment and circumstances can affect your state of mind to make you more vulnerable than normal. It happened to me more than once, and it’s the price you pay.

***

“My byline’s been pooped on more than once. I’m sure of it.”

My mission as a journalist has broadened across 25 years, in part, because of the way the media, itself, has evolved, and, in part, because how I’ve evolved as a person. As a cub newspaper reporter in 1988, I’d write a story one day, and the medium was delivered to the reader’s doorstep the next. Subscribers might read what I’d written over their morning coffee, or they might use it as a fresh liner for the kitty litter box. My byline’s been pooped on more than once. I’m sure of it.

Today, it’s radically different. I can communicate in an instant with thousands of people across the world. It’s a mass communication guy’s dream, but the speed and volume of electronic media make getting noticed and building an audience more difficult than ever.

I still produce the occasional “hard” or “critical” news piece, and really enjoy an interesting personality profile. During the last several years, however, the most significant evolution in my approach to journalism has been in its tone. Today, I write less for money, and more for the pursuit of what I believe is my life’s mission. It’s not an in-your-face message, but those familiar with my style know there’s generally a message about how the good news of the Gospel has changed my life. With that change comes a natural desire to share it, and anything short of that probably wasn’t real change. I like that I can intermingle journalism with ministry for a higher purpose, and not be preachy about it. I can just be myself. Alas, that’s enough.

It’s also a New World reality that my journalistic message, the very thing that’s at the heart of what’s most important to me, creates a greater divide than it once did no matter how subtle it may be. Our “progressivism” takes us in a direction opposite the narrow Way.

On Day 14 en route to San Juan de Ortega, I experienced two things that made me more vulnerable than normal to what otherwise wouldn’t bother me much. The last six miles of that long day were cold, wet and windy, I was really tired, and hadn’t had English-speaking company in a while. And while it normally wouldn’t bother me in the least, all my albergue companions for the night were German and South Korean. As we all enjoyed down time in the common area, they segregated into groups early on, and I felt a little left out.

(Above: A lesson I learned about minority status.)

I’ve experienced minority status abroad more than most U.S., middle-class, middle-aged, white guys, and normally it doesn’t bother me a bit. In fact, I know without a doubt that pushing that comfort zone is good. That night, though, it made me feel pretty lonely, and subsequently, downright irritable. The other pilgrims weren’t being intentionally rude. They were just surrounding themselves with others who were like them – it’s what comes most natural to us all.

So I made social media my company for the night, and it made a bad situation even worse. When you’ve been cold and tired for a long time, and even feeling a bit sorry for yourself, it’s best to keep your emotions in check. I guess I failed that night.

Scrolling though my “news feed” I came across a post by an older gentleman from my hometown who’d shared a video I posted several days earlier after an evening’s stay at a nice hotel in Santo Domingo. The man, who was well familiar with my journalistic style, apparently found some hypocrisy in the idea I’d used a credit card to rejuvenate with nice accommodations while on an ancient Christian pilgrimage. He shared the video and decided he’d describe me to the world as a “pseudo-Christian asshole.” I read it three times thinking I was surely seeing it wrong. Nope. That’s what it said. Pseudo-Christian asshole. Nice. It hurt my feelings more than anything.

I deleted the video from his post, blocked him forevermore from my “friends” list, as well as a few others who found innocent humor in what he’d said. It kept me awake all night, and my reaction to it all was unusually excessive. I realized the following day just how much the peripheral circumstances of the day had affected my good judgment. In retrospect, it was a great Camino lesson.

Pseudo Christian Asshole. I’ve been called worse. I just can’t remember when. Thank goodness that didn’t become my trail name.

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It’s Go Time

A PILGRIM’S PRAYER

Dear Lord,

Give us the courage to set off on pilgrimage.

May we travel unhindered by wordly possessions, simply trusting in You for all we need.

Sometimes, our hearts will be heavy as we plod along. And our feet will ache, and feel dirty.

Other times, we will rejoice as the sun shines on the footpath stretching before us.

May we ponder Truth … that the pilgrim’s journey is never finished until they reach home.

Amen.

The Way of St. James

The Truth About Glory

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When you’ve written as many words as I have over the years, it’s kind of a big deal to set one aside as the favorite.

As the author of creation I’ve always believed God has a special love for, and kindred spirit with journalists, because of all the things he could have used to communicate with us, He chose the written word. Ink on paper.

Transcend is my second favorite word of all time. I love that word. The way it looks in print, the way it flows from the tongue, the profound meaning it conveys to move beyond that which is commonly known and understood. Transcendence is such an honorable pursuit in anything worth pursuing.

Discern is a word that ranks high on my list.  I love this word especially because it engages so much more than a simple understanding. Discernment comes with time, experience, lessons learned, relational context, and it’s a wonderful characteristic of wisdom.  During the later seasons of life, we can discern things in a transcendent manner, I believe.

Infinitesimal – a word I simply adore for its meaning (an indefinitely small quantity with a value approaching zero) and for the wonderful memories I associate with it, as it was a favorite of my old boss U.S. Rep. Marion Berry. He loved using it as a description for the intellectual abilities of so many colleagues who disagreed with him, and the descriptor was often exact. I catch myself using it in the same manner far more frequently than I should.

Here’s a clip of my old boss in rare form on the House floor. This is one of my top three favorite memories of moments of service to this great Southern legislator. He didn’t use his favorite word here, but I know he wanted to. This is worth watching if you want to get your day started with a laugh. It’s classicly known as the “Howdy Doody-Looking Nimrod” clip in reference to a Republican colleague. Debatable judgment here, but nevertheless … MB wasn’t a happy camper this day. Occasionally, if but rarely, I miss the good ole’ days like this.

But glory, oh what a wonderful word to exalt. Glory. It’s my favorite beyond all others.

In the Greek, glory is best translated as weight. So when we ascribe glory to something in balance to other things, we give it significance and importance. It’s especially relevant in the context of God’s own desire for His glorification. It takes a transcendent discernment to know this isn’t a selfish Godly characteristic, but one that’s for our own good, especially in our pursuit of truth.

And it it helps if we understand several other of God’s characteristics and engage some linear thinking.

In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.” It doesn’t say He admires the truth or respects the truth, but rather that He IS the truth.

Romans 11:32 offers enlightenment of God the Father as transcendent of our earthy understanding. Here’s an easy-to-read version of that verse:

“Yes, God’s riches are very great! His wisdom and knowledge have no end! No one can explain what God decides. No one can understand his ways.”

Read A.W.  Tozer’s thoughts on the pursuit and understanding of God the Father …  Tozer’s pretty deep:

“When we try to imagine what God is like, we must of necessity use that-which-is-not-of-God as the raw material for our minds to work on; hence, whatever we visualize God to be, He is not, for we have constructed that image out of that which He has made, and what He has made is not of God. If we insist on trying to imagine him, we end with an idol, not made with hands, but with thoughts; and an idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.”

That’s worth a lifetime of meditation.

Yet, God clearly instructs us to pursue a holy knowledge of him, and the answer is right here.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.” 2 Peter 3:18

It’s all about Jesus, and it’s a pursuit so beautiful in that it’s a never-ending quest. We can look forward to an eternity of developing a relationship with the Father, through Jesus the Son. Now, and forever. To Him be the glory, the weight, the relevance. The never-ending pursuit of truth is the glorious pursuit of Jesus.

It’s such a transcendent notion, my infinitesimal mind can barely discern it, but I’m trying.

How glorious.

Thank you, Jesus.

Vaya con Dios, for now.

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Video Journal #1 T-21 Days

This is my first video journal recorded last week, and published via Facebook that day. Just wanted to get it on the blog for the archives. I’ll produce a second video this afternoon and will publish it when it’s complete. From now on, each video will go directly to the blogsite. These clips help chronicle my preparation for, and the actual pilgrimage of, the Camino de Santiago beginning on October 19.

 

The Truth About What You Hallow

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(Blogger’s Note: I’ll create a second video journal tomorrow about preparing for pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. It will be published here on the blog, and distributed through my personal Facebook account. If you’re not a follower, and wish to be, just click the button to the right.)

Every good thing, and every failure is traced to that which we adore most. It’s all about what we hallow. And it’s clear what God desires most from us, is not our moralistic behavior or good deeds, but our genuine adoration.

It’s contrary to everything we’ve learned and requires a change in our point of view particularly because behavior and deeds are those things which are seen (even placed on exhibition and measured), and yet, adoration is an unseen characteristic of the heart.

Just before He gives us the model for productive prayer, we read this counsel: He says, don’t be a hypocrite elevating yourself in the public places, but go away privately and close the door. And don’t babble with a long litany of fancy words. “I already know what you need,” he says. Then pray in a manner like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

The very first thing we do, is to hallow. It’s not a word you hear often, maybe because of its precise meaning – to honor, glorify and set aside as holy. The word is so unique in meaning, it survives many biblical translations.

What God wants most is our adoration. I’ll try explaining how I learned this as truth. We all adore something. It’s how we’re wired.

***

In my early years as a Christian hallowing God wasn’t so easy. As I wrestled daily with family responsibilities, never-ending bills and small-town pressure to climb an exhausting social ladder, everything seemed grounded in my abilities as a provider and a doer. As the storm weathered over the years, I nearly killed myself beating those necessities into submission.

Then, it became dangerously fun.

I learned how to make money. One step at a time, I surmounted the social ladder. After thousands of bylines,  attending endless social fundraisers and parties, and even my relatively good and moral standing in the church, people knew my name. I adored it.

Then, on a cool, crisp beautiful October day in 2009 it ended as if everything I set aside as holy was sucked into a black hole, never again to see the light of day. My publishing business closed. I entered a time of depression that was like nothing I’ve ever known before or since. I remember telling Dana I literally couldn’t ‘see’ tomorrow. The blindness went on for at least three years.

The money was gone, the party invitations stopped coming, there were no more bylines.

It lasted until I somehow realized one day that a real, fixed, unshakable truthScreen Shot 2015-10-04 at 6.09.17 AM must exist out there somewhere, and that it was the only thing worth really pursuing.

I can stand on a street corner as a fool working to draw attention to myself all day long, but it’s pointless. It’s what I do in private that matters. The ultimate truth is what I see in the mirror.

If you take anything from this post today, I hope you take this thought:

What you do in secret drives your view of yourself.

That’s worth some meditation. It really is.

Just yesterday, I spent nearly six hours on a 15-mile training hike for a 600-mile pilgrimage across Spain that begins in two weeks. I can tell you from the core of my soul that I spent nearly the entire time, praising and adoring the Creator. I was all alone, just a backpack and a pair of shoes, in a place, where so to speak, the door was closed.

It’s His infinite creativeness, I think, that permits me to do this, and it’s something I’m particularly drawn to on these long walks.

I’m a creative guy. I create things. Mostly words and ideas as they relate to communication. Start throwing around analytical jargon, numbers and a spreadsheet and consider me “checked out.” So when I think about God as the creator/author of all things it’s practically impossible to put my adoration elsewhere. Everything flows from that.

Moreover, when I think about the extremity and highness of His glory in creation, versus the low place where He sent his Son to pay my debts, I find no option but to hallow His name. It’s the highness of His majesty and the depth of His love and grace.

Praise and adoration is what life’s all about, and it frames the context for everything we do.

Vaya con Dios for now.

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The Truth About Solvitur Ambulando

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It’s a phrase I’d never heard until just a few months ago. Solvitur ambulando.

A well-read and accomplished friend who’s already thru-conquered the Appalachian Trail made the simple post on a recent social media thread where I’d let the waiting world know I was out on a practice hike. Solvitur ambulando, he wrote, succinctly.

I was embarrassed not to know the Latin phrase, and too curious not to look it up. I’m sure that’s probably what he intended.

“It is solved by walking.” … solvitur ambulando. How lovely, and how true.

“The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out an inner journey. The inner journey is the interpolation of the meanings and signs of the outer pilgrimage. One can have one without the other. It is best to have both.” ~ Thomas Merton

I never even thought much about pilgrimage until the seventh grade when a social studies teacher I had a slight crush on taught about Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam where some two million religious faithful trek to Mecca each year. To a young kid who thought mostly about basketball and what was for supper, something like religious pilgrimage seemed a distant and “foreign” practice  mostly undertaken by crazed zealots in far away lands.

It was 32 years later until I made a random click on a movie simply called The Way Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 6.00.33 AMwhen I learned that pilgrimage went beyond something people pursued in biblical times. It’s actually been going on for thousands of years.  And I was hooked. I didn’t know when, or how, or even why. But it was on, and I knew it.

Emilo Estevez and father Martin Sheen teamed in 2010 to create The Way, the story of a father who heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the camino de Santiago, and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.

Along the journey he discovers the difference between “a life we live, and a life we pursue.”

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Pilgrimage – in its purest form undertaken on  foot – is, in fact, a religious rite shared by nearly all the world’s faiths.  A pilgrimage takes our shared metaphor of life as a journey, in which a lone sojourner may struggle with physical challenges, emotions, and hope through the wilderness, and turns it into a concrete, bodily experience. It converts the abstract into a tangible path, with real goals and obstacles and pain and joy.

A pilgrimage like the camino de Santiago can be as tangential as an adventure/vacation, or as solemn as a time purely dedicated to commune with God.

Whatever issue the pilgrim finds on his heart, … solvitur ambulando … it can be solved by walking.

I’ve certainly found it to be true in my training hikes. Several hours, several times a week out walking with blue skies, trees and a worn, winding footpath have freed up my mind and spirit in a way that I now covet. God and I are talking, and sharing thoughts, and I can feel His guidance taking me in a purposeful direction.  Together, we are solving things by walking. Solvitur ambulando.

It’s now 22 days to departure and the training is entering a new phase. It’s a lovely fall Saturday in Arkansas and 13 miles await.

I wonder what we’ll solve today? Solvitur ambulando.

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The Truth About Hearing That Voice

(Blogger’s Note: Perhaps it’s an appropriate moment to share just a word about my writing philosophy, especially what I write here on the blog.  I don’t aspire to, consider myself, or even necessarily admire the lable of “Christian writer.” I’m a writer who’s a Christian, but I honestly just write about the things in which I’m interested.  At this moment, and hopefully beyond, my highest aspiration is that of a growing, ever-maturing disciple of Christ. So that’s reflected in my writing and I couldn’t change it if I wanted to. I don’t seek out a Christian audience. In fact, I go out of the way to write for everyone, Christians, atheists, agnostics, widows,  drunks, manic depressives and grumpy old men sitting in a recliner by the fireplace sipping fine brandy.  We’re all in this together. I want to write about the things we all think about somewhere deep down, yet rarely discuss aloud. With that caveat, parts of today’s short post may contain a bit more “Christianese” than I normally prefer.  Sometimes, it’s hard to get around.)

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

The training walks for the Camino de Santiago are now increasing in both frequency and distance.  It offers a lot of thinking time to someone who probabaly already thinks too much about too much.

As part of my pilgrimage prep I’ve been reading a lot lately, both in the religious and secular genres. Much of the reading has been focused on awareness. One book title is, in fact, titled “Awareness” by Anthony de Mello if you’re interested. It was recommended by my friend, Jay Gunter.

The readings have caused me to think a lot about the things I do, why I do them, and the real motives behind them. Am I giving to charity because I want to make a difference, or just to feel good about myself, or worse yet, because I hope to gain something in return?

Am I sitting in church because it’s what we do in this town, or because I genuinely want to learn and serve in community?

And the big question that came out of nowhere this morning: Am I writing because it’s what I’m meant to do, or because in some twisted way, I just like drawing attention to myself or my work?

The bigger question I moreover asked myself was this: Would I actually go on this pilgrimage if I couldn’t write about it, and talk about it? Would I go, if it was just to spend time alone with God, and no one ever knew the difference?

***

I’d like to think the answer to the latter question is “yes,” but maybe I’ll never know, because I heard God answer the former question and that was that. That’s all there was.

Allow me a quick sidebar.

What I’ll write in a moment raises this interesting question: How do you hear God’s voice? Maybe even more difficult to distinguish is this: How do I know when it’s God’s voice as opposed to me just telling myself something I want to hear?

I wish I could answer that question definitively. Maybe someone who reads this and has a better understanding than me, can offer their thoughts in the comments section. Please feel free to join that discussion here. I simply cannot answer the question definitively.

I’m not one of those people who will tell you I clearly hear God’s voice on a daily or even yearly basis. It’s honestly a rare thing for me to hear it with crystal clarity. But it does happen, and it happened this morning.  (Maybe one day I’ll write about the two “visions” I’ve had in my life. Yes, I said visions. In 49 years, there have been two. Alas, another time.)

Here’s what I do know. The occasions when I do hear God’s voice are helped when I’m most intentional about my bible study, prayer, meditation and a genuine search for truth. Sometimes, I’m better at all that than others. This is a moment when I’m pretty disciplined in all those regards.

End sidebar.

***

So I’m strolling along this morning two miles into a 10-mile trek, full pack in tow, and not necessarily talking to God as much as I’m talking to myself, and I ask myself that question about whether I’d be interested in the camino if I couldn’t write or talk about Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 1.10.37 PMit. This is a big deal for me, you see, and I really want to be aware of my motives here. Otherwise, and without that awareness, what good may come from it? Surely none.

Then God enters the conversation and answer that question just as clear as a bell. This is what He said:

“I want you to write about it. I made you to write about it. I created you to write about me. This is what you do. Listen to me and I’ll tell you what to do. Tell everyone.”

I’m no longer going to question my motives.

I’m just going to write. It’s what I do. He told me so.

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The Truth About Knowing When Someone Has Your Back

 

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Many years ago I read a book that offered this imaginary account of a woman who’d just passed into the heavenly realm.

As she met  St. Peter at the gate, she took a final look back at the earth and noticed an array of dotted lights across the earth, just as stars would look, some radiant with clear bright light, others so faint and flickering they were barely visible.  As the moments passed, some lights would appear from nowhere, and others would extinguish altogether.

Before walking further, the woman asked Peter about the strange phenomenon she saw.

“The lights represent prayers from the earth,” Peter said. “Because of the different situations from which they come, God hears some with great clarity. Others, as you can see, are quite muffled.”

***

The story raises the often-asked question, “Does God hear all prayers?”

The simple answer is that God can do anything He wants, but scripture makes it clear there are many things we can do to get in the way of clear communication.

And I believe, also, there’s a matter of spiritual gifting. Prayer is one of those giftings, or at least closely related and essential to a few of those gifts. And the fact is, some are more strongly gifted in prayer than others.

***

An earlier post about preparing for the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage mentioned I was being prayerful and meditating about a group of people I’d ask to pray for me as I prepared and walked the journey.  To date, it’s something I’ve thought about as much as anything else on the “to-do” list. Slowly and over time, the five people I would ask became clear. A few days later, I sent a group email to these five people making my request, and one-by-one, they each replied that of course they’d pray for me. A couple of them said that they already did, which greatly touched my heart.

I could cover a list of so many reasons why this is important, and such an essential part of the pilgrimage, but it’s a lengthy list , so I’ll try to summarize it in a sentence or two.

I’ve learned when you go about something that you know has  a purpose for the higher, greater good – a Kingdom-purpose we’d call it in The Church – the spiritual forces that oppose that higher good will come against you, and they will come against you relentlessly.  Now, there’s a lot to unpack there in that last sentence, and it’s a little “churchier” than I usually like to write, so maybe another time. For now, I’ll just let it sit there, but I think most people do, in fact, believe in some form of a negative spiritual force.  Some just call it “negative energy.” Others believe in a fallen angel known as Lucifer.  The point is, that many people relate to that negative presence in their lives. It’s very real.

Because for me this journey included such a higher purpose, I knew I’d experience that darkness, and that it would be important to have a group beyond family praying for me … a group of mature warriors I could count on to have my spiritual back and pray those prayers of clarity in my behalf.  I’ll tell you they honor me by sharing their individual and collective strength.  It’s difficult to describe my feelings of gratitude.

So I want to tell you a very brief bit about each of them. Not to mention names, because they’re the kind of people who do things absent of agendas without shouting their good works from the mountaintops. It’s probably the thing I love and admire most about these three men and two women.

***

Interestingly, the first man is someone I’ve never personally met. Our introduction came a couple of years ago via the internet as he researched and found some of my writings about living in Ecuador. He wrote me a few times, and called me a few times. The first thing I quickly discerned about this South Carolina man is that he is smart in a super smart sort of way. I liked him a lot right off the bat. He labels himself a “reformed lawyer” who’s been engaged in full-time ministry for the greater part of his life. He strikes me as an extraordinary family man, with a broad, mission-focused view of the world. I like this guy, and I like him a lot. He’s a model for so much of what I aspire to be. One day, I’ll shake his hand, and hug his neck.

The next person is someone Dana and I actually met in Ecuador. During our first four months in Puerto Cayo, our relationship with her quickly grew into something really special. I often joke with her that sometimes she’s known by the locals as “el chihuahua” standing for the good, and eating local injustices alive. Let me tell you, this woman has a special spirit. She is much how I think I would feel about an older sister. After four months, when Dana and I left Puerto Cayo in 2013, I was still experiencing some moderate depression, torn about leaving versus returning to the states and not knowing exactly what our future in Ecuador would be – not knowing what our future in the states would be for that matter. In the moments before we drove the rental car back to the airport, I wept in her arms with sadness. Then she began praying out loud. With her hands in the air she continued to pray as we pulled out of the driveway and out of sight. My eyes are watering now just remembering it. I knew for sure at that moment that this woman would forever be a part of the life Dana and I live. And she is. She’s a mighty warrior.

The last time I actually tried to put myself back in the corporate world was 2010 at a local technology company that works primarily with banks across the country.  It was a small, but powerful and progressive company of only about 20 people, most, by far were men, and what I enjoyed most about my time at the company, was that every guy who worked there was brilliantly entrepreneurial. It was a really special environment.  Shorty after they hired me and before I came to work, the man who became my immediate supervisor invited me to dinner just so we could get acquainted.  He was one of the kindest men I ever met, and I later realized what an important role he played at the company as someone for whom everyone had the greatest respect. We talked often about church, and our frustrations with it. We talked about things that were real. My relationship with him was kind of a bonus perk for working there. He’s the model for a servant-leader, and I will always be grateful for our introduction.

The second woman was born, raised, and still lives in my rural, Arkansas hometown. Every small town really needs people like her. Her family still farms there, where my family actively farmed years ago. She’s actually not someone I’ve spent a lot of time with, but it’s not necessary because she’s undeniably good and laser focused on higher things. She’s a wife and a mother and a grandmother and an undeniable advocate for youth in her community.  I can guarantee you that she’s a person of routine, much of that routine focused on prayer for the sake of others. She’s compassionate, determined, unshakable. She was on my list from Day 1.

The final man I mention is someone I view as a lot like me. Closer to my age than all the rest, a seeker, a fixer, a man who has questions and looks for answers. Ironically, I met him working in the same technology company as the other man. It just goes to show you God can have a great purpose in all things.  At a time in my life when I was really struggling with my relationship with the church, he introduced me to a book titled “Pagan Christianity.” It was a great read, and gave me some insight into things I’d considered, and above all, it helped me understand that it’s okay to have more questions than answers.  That’s just the journey. This guy’s a good man. I think he can probably relate well to my reasons for undertaking a journey like the camino. That insight is why I asked him to pray for me. I know that he is, and will. It’s so great to have that trust in someone.

***

I’m thankful to these people for being such a special part of this moment in my life. They’ll be with me everywhere along The Way.

I wonder if they’ll pray as much as my mother who says she’ll have to buy knee pads for so much kneeling on the hardwood floor while I’m gone.

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The Truth about Walking by Faith

 

Walk by Faith

 

I spent the first 45 years of my life literally drowning.

Driven by a fear of failure, I was drowning in control issues, constantly working hard to manipulate the circumstances and produce favorable outcomes. This was true in both business and family. It was exhausting working so hard, presenting the appearance of having it together when everything was falling apart.

It was one crisp fall day six years ago in the midst of economic circumstances I never saw coming when I realized all the possibilities for manipulation had come to an end. There was no favorable outcome to be had. My publishing business would close, and my perceived identity would be lost. When a control freak obsessed with a successful reputation loses control of it all, things go dark fast.

Incidentally, I knew better than to put my identity in my business, but I did it anyway. That’s a whole ‘nother discussion. But I knew better.

It was, or at least I thought it was, the most tragic circumstance of my life. Depression is an awful thing. Certain personalities handle it even less successfully than others. I wouldn’t wish it on the strongest warrior.

My road to overcoming depression was long and winding. It mostly involved good people like my wife and mom never giving up on me, but there was only so much they could do.  At a certain point the responsibility of crawling out of the mire was mine, and mine alone.

Getting better was a painfully slow process for both me and my family, and it’s really only been in the last couple of years that I’ve felt renewed, refreshed, and re-energized.

Almost all of it had to do with the ongoing process of learning how to walk by faith.

It’s one of those biblical terms that’s so easy to overcomplicate, label as ill-defined, and completely misunderstand. We over analyze so much today.

These are  five steps that helped me understand more about walking by faith.  It’s not exclusive to other things, but these were key:

  1. I had to realize a choice always existed.
  2. I had to understand that not only is it my purpose, moreover, it’s my very nature to glorify God.
  3. I had to shut up and listen.
  4. I had to come to terms with the fact that my life is more about others than it is about me.
  5. I had to learn to lean on God (not my own understanding) for the wherewithal to execute His purpose for me.

About #1: I’m a huge creature of habit. I like certain routines, am comfortable in certain ways of thinking, and yet while open-minded, am very slow to make radical turns in philosophical/moral thought. Maybe it’s more aptly described as just being set in your ways. Or maybe I’m just “hard-headed” as we say in the South.

I had to learn to let God confront me about these things. I had to comprehend that in just about every circumstance there’s a choice between righteousness and sinfulness.  My inclination is to sinfulness. Alas, there is always a choice.

About #2: I had to wrap my mind around the truth that I was created and wired to deify/worship/revere (insert whatever word you wish) something. I’ve revered a lot of things in my life, but ultimately, I’m placed on earth to have a relationship with God. He doesn’t need my love or admiration. He simply desires it. That’s pretty huge.

So when I pray now, it’s not just a laundry list of asking for daily provision or this or that for my family. It’s just giving praise and glory to His magnificence. “Our father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.”

About #3: I had to learn how to stop running my mouth and my mind. I’m one of those people who, until you get to really know me, appears quiet, removed and fairly distant. I don’t know why it’s that way, but it is. Within my inner circle, the people with whom I’m most comfortable, I almost never shut up.

There are times when it surely appears God is silent. In fact I think there are unquestionably times when God IS silent. More often, however,  I think, we mistake his silence for our noise and inability to hear.

I once calculated that I’d interviewed more than 15,000 people in my journalism career. That’s a lot of people. Honing the skill of the interview may be the most valuable professional thing I’ve learned in life. You have to listen. It’s the ONLY way you’ll ever know the next question to ask. You have to listen.

About #4: It’s simple really. The most profound thing I read in Rick Warren’s timeless book Purpose Driven Life, is this: We are most ourselves when we’re serving other people. It’s true. Not much else you can say.  If you don’t meditate on anything else today, meditate on that. Here it is again: We are most ourselves when we’re serving other people.

About #5: I like reference points that get me where I’m going. Maybe it’s a blaze on a hiking trail, the North Star giving me reference to another object in the sky, or the GPS lady checking off certain markers along an unknown road trip.  The one, singular thing I desire more than anything else in life today is a growing, developing, never-ending pursuit and understanding of the truth. Here’s my philosophy toward that end:

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” ~ Romans 10:17

The truth is, my understanding right there, in that verse above. All of it. Everything.

None of this is easy for me. It’s a work in progress. Always will be. But there’s nothing but time, right?

 

 

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