(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.
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 it. 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.
Today marks a milestone day in my preparation for pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. I am six weeks out from departure. From the moment the thought entered my head almost four years ago, I knew this day would be one when I would become even more serious, and begin the most final stage of anticipation for the experience.
For me, it’s not a casual thing to prepare for such a journey, walking daily some 45 days and 550 miles solo across a country where I’ve never been.
The first real stage of my preparation actually began two months ago. As the cliche’ goes, I began preparing my mind, my soul, my heart and my body. For someone like me, the danger has never been lack of preparation. Rather it has always been preparing too vigorously, too soon, and getting burned out instead of peaking at just the right time before the real pilgrimage begins. I’m obsessive-complusive like that. It’s not something that’s going to change.
Today, my legs are comfortable at a daily base of 7-8 miles. That number needs to be at a solid 15 by October 17. So, there remains much work to be done.
I’m reading and studying my bible more aggressively than at any time maybe in the last 10 years. It’s so refreshing. Why I had wondered so far from this important daily time, I may never understand, but I’m thankful to be back in that practice that is now my most important time of day.
I’ve prayed about, and have selected a team of five people I will ask to pray for me along this journey. I’ve yet to contact these folks, but the time is coming soon, and I’m confident they will be pleased to do so. I hope to make these people a special part of my journey.
I’m reading heavily in the secular areas as well, about adventure, and new ways to think, and how men have approached the second half of their lives with different thoughts about intention. I’m really trying to broaden the way I see the world, and have a greater capacity for understanding.
A few times before, I’ve done some things that I considered as pretty big personal challenges. And I’ve always enjoyed the necessary time of preparation that leads up to the actual “thing.” This time is actually as much about the journey, and the learning, as the actual journey itself. Having now experienced two months of that “preparatory training time,” I feel as good about myself as a person as I’ve felt in a long time.
But still, I have so many questions about where this journey is going, and how it will play out.
- I wonder just how much I will miss my family. I’ve never been separated from them more than three weeks. The camino will require seven weeks and change. I know the answer. I’ll miss them a lot.
- I wonder how the pilgrimage will affect me as a writer. Will this experience bring me to a point where I actually sit down with intention to write something real and significant?
- I think some people actually misunderstand the camino as a magical place that offers the answers to life. I view it as more of a quiet, private time in the “wilderness” where I focus on listening and the chance God will truly speak to me if He so chooses. I wonder if He will do so, and if He will do it with clarity? I’m working on listening to Him. He will do His part. I must do mine.
- I wonder if I will be able to see the pilgrimage experience for what it really is, and look far beyond all the metaphors and clichés? I want this experience to make me a better person.
- I wonder if this will be a time when I can forgive myself for some of my most regretful sins and shortcomings.
- I wonder what it will be like to experience “homelessness” for 45 days, waking up in a different place every single morning.
- This is not an unimportant question. I wonder if my body will hold up for 550 miles across unpredictable weather, elevation changes and a pretty radical change in what it’s been accustomed to for the last five years.
- I wonder if this experience will somehow make me a better husband, and father, and son.
- I wonder if it will actually offer me some clarity of thought for direction and purpose for the last few decades of my life. This may be the thing I desire most from the camino.
- I wonder if it will help me feel the things I feel all the more deeply.
- I wonder if it will help me better understand the Truth of Life, and the real, unmasked, uncomplicated truth about myself.
- At this journey’s conclusion, I wonder what will be next. I have a hint that I may actually already know. Lord, help me if it’s true.
Big questions. Maybe this journey will shed light on a few of them. Maybe none. Only God knows.
But it’s fun and exciting to contemplate. That’s worth something for sure.
Now, on to less serious things for the day. There’s a Labor Day cookout to conquer.
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and truth.” ~ 1st John 3:18
SOME THINGS I KNOW TO BE TRUE:
- Everyone has a story.
- Facing fear builds character.
- It is, in fact, better to give than to receive.
- True friendship is among the rarest of gifts, that is, a friendship absent of motives, agendas and selfishness.
- We are designed for intimate relationships.
- We are wired for worship, and we have the freedom to worship that which we choose.
- You can’t unscramble an egg.
- There is no greater gift than true companionship.
SOME THINGS I BELIEVE TO BE TRUE:
- Destiny is real, yet must be both purposefully and haphazardly pursued.
- Angels surround us.
- Demonic forces are real.
- Light is among the most amazing of things.
- The best education for anyone is travel, whether it be to the next town, county, state or continent.
- God does punish, but it only happened once.
- A man goes through four to five distinct seasons in his life, yet he always feels like a little boy.
SOME THINGS I HOPE TO BE TRUE:
- Racism and prejudice will one day cease to exist.
- The church will de-evolve to what it was originally intended to be.
- Our country will once again enter into an era of exploration and show its greatness.
- The family will once again take its rightful place in all of our lives.
- The best for all of us it yet to come.
You can check out today’s post on my secondary blog, LatitudeOne @ http://wp.me/p2tJ80-1y