Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Pilgrims and Tourists

The preparation for this journey included a reading list to learn about what we were going to experience before we went. It helped me to be in the mindset of pilgrimage before the trip began.

On the trip, though, we could tell when we had switched from being Pilgrims to tourists. In tourist mode, the cameras came out and our desire to experience famous places became primary. As pilgrims we were content to journey together caring more about the shared experience of walking through the history of the Methodist movement together. Beginning our days with morning prayer and communion was one of the most beautiful parts.




This parallels the tension of the Christian journey; being in the world but not of it.

We are the perfect blend of pilgrims and tourists at the Turf Tavern in Oxford.

I found great warmth and comfort being part of the group. When we were all traveling somewhere together, we all looked out to make sure each person was with us. When we went out together in small groups, the will of the group shifted to whoever wanted to do something the most. My group was wonderful to accommodate my desire to have dinner at the Turf Tavern in Oxford and to have Indian food in London.

Our last full day there, we all got on the tube together (the subway in London) and made our way into town. We waited for each other and navigated this new land with the joking and familiarity that comes from being comfortable in a group.

The next morning I took almost that exact same route, but it was very different alone. Instead of the confidence of community, I felt a little anxious about getting around by myself.  This is what it is like to be held close in Christian community and then to be sent out into the world.

Church is supposed to feel like this. It should be a close-knit community bound together in love and a common journey, where we gain strength, purpose, and courage. We hold each other accountable in this church family, to grow to be all that we can in the image of God. Then we are sent out to share that love in the world.

Too many times Church has become a place for us to seek our own feeding, our own preferences, instead of learning how to grow in the self-giving love of Jesus. We stop being pilgrims on a journey together and become tourists wanting to be thrilled and entertained.

As I re-entered my faith community today, I felt very vulnerable after such a meaningful journey. I was very moved to take and serve communion with my own church after being away. This coming week, we will shape and form children in the love of Jesus through our Vacation Bible School. As I continue to process all that I learned, I look forward to the next steps on this journey.


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A Sacred Journey

I’ve been on two pilgrimages: one when my husband left, the other after my parents died. The first time, I didn’t really know it was a pilgrimage. It was a healing miracle where a former student with a beautiful and compassionate heart gave me the opportunity to travel for free during the summer of 2010.

That first trip, I was lost. I wandered around exciting cities and beautiful national parks with my heart broken and bleeding, only thinking of what I had lost, not even dreaming about my future, and not even fully appreciating the gift that was taking place in that present time.

The Golden Gate Bridge at sunset

The art of travel is seeing what is sacred…being alert to the times that you need to lose yourself and to the times when what’s needed is a journey to a sacred place in all its glories and fearsome masks to find yourself. The Art of Pilgrimage  

After that first pilgrimage, I found the calling that God had for my life.

The next pilgrimage was my first trip to Europe to heal the grief of losing both of my parents. That one was much more of an intentional pilgrimage. My daughter and I met in Madrid and walked the last 100 km of the Camino de Santiago.


This second trip was focused. We bought gear, mapped out our journey, and headed for the destination of the St. James Cathedral. Of course, even when the physical journey is planned, you never know what discoveries are to be found on your inner journey. The movie, The Way prompted me to unravel the line, “You don’t choose a life, you live one.”

Knowing how much my mom would have loved the fact that we were having coffee in little villages in Spain was part of the healing process. Experiencing the “end of the earth” at Cape Finisterre was truly a glimpse of shalom for me. In that moment I was able to let go and commend my parents to God’s loving care.

Now, as I prepare for another pilgrimage, I’m not really sure what it is that I’m seeking.  My questions are not tied up in what I will do and who I will be, as much as what my part is and what is my church’s part in bringing healing to an angry, divided, and violent world.

I’m almost numb to each new shooting or other act of hatred and my heart breaks for people who have been hurt by the church. In the midst of all the pain, the church seems to be on auto-pilot, immune to the cries of the world for justice and healing. There is meaningful and urgent work to be done, while my own beloved United Methodist Church continues a family fight about who is in and who is out.

So, I will go and walk in some old paths where revival took place, where a couple of brothers wanted everyone to experience the change of heart that they did. I’ll open my heart and my mind to the echoes of their prophetic words and to see the familiar ones anew.

At Annual Conference, we were reminded that we are not appointed to our churches to be consultants, but to be pastors.

God, please give me the heart of a pastor, to grow in my ability to love and shepherd those in my care so that we can be agents of healing in this beautiful world that is full of so much hurt. Give me the tools to bring hope to the hopeless and purpose to those who have lost sight of the great work you have for us. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 

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Yay, I didn’t die from this!

This picture was from Thursday’s 5K from this year’s Annual Conference at 6:30 AM on a very rainy morning. They have this 5K every year, but this was the first time I did it. I walked more than half of it, but did get some running in and even though my time is nothing to brag about, it was a pretty good morning workout, hopping over puddles and running in wet sand. It was great to have some beautiful colleagues cheering me on at the finish line (many, many minutes after they finished the run).

Part of what I am learning in leading a church is that there is always that choice, every single day, to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new, or stay under the covers where it is safe. Beautiful things happen when you feel free to take some risks.

In a few weeks, I will be taking some new steps on a pilgrimage to England, to journey through the steps of John Wesley. While I’m taking these steps through old places, I will be praying for the new steps that will bring revival to the church today and discern how my work fits into God’s work of revival.

I am grateful for this opportunity to learn and for the courage to step outside of my comfort zone with a group of new friends who I haven’t met yet. I ask for your prayers as I prepare for the journey in these next few weeks and then for the time away in mid-July.

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I’m headed out tomorrow for a week on a trip to Ahuachapan, El Salvador. I’ve never been on a mission trip, so I am looking forward to this opportunity to connect with people in another part of the world and hopefully do some meaningful work.  It is a thrill to be able to serve in this way with my daughters and my friend Jen.

It looks like our days will be spent distributing food and maybe finishing up some painting or other work that other teams have started.  We are hoping to build relationships on this trip and then go back in July for a more intensive project of building a house and/or organizing a Bible school.

This is Reading Week at Duke, something that some schools consider Spring Break, but I will be carrying plenty of reading material with me.  Gracie will guard the home front while I’m gone, with the help of my kind and generous neighbors.

I ask for your prayers for all 13 of us going on the trip, for the people that we will meet when we get there, and for all of the other people who are going on similar trips this spring.

My hope is that our eyes will be opened in a way that will allow us to follow God more faithfully and to continue building those relationships in our communities when we come back.

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When I was little, my dad used to play all of these silly games with us while my mom was making dinner. He would hide his ring for a game of “I spy,” let us put his hair in curlers in a beauty salon game, and ride us around on his back and say “We’re going to Germany.” My parents had traveled so much when they were younger, they incorporated a lot of foreign languages into our every day conversations and carried the memories of all of those places with them. So, when my dad put us on his back and said, “We’re going to Germany,” he had some specific experiences in mind of when he was there.

I was excited about my trip to Germany, but had no idea what to expect. I woke up on the train and looked out the window at the German countryside and then arrived at the station in Hannover, where I took another train to Leipzig. The train station (Hauptbauhnhof) is pretty cool and has a little mall in it.  After the sassy people in Paris, I was really nervous about communicating in German, since my total knowledge of the German language is saying thank you and counting to 10. But, everyone was wonderful and communication was much easier. Some even apologized for not speaking English.  Also, like I said last time, a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast do a world of good for improving your outlook on life.

My super adorable couch surfing host in Leipzig

I took a tram to where my couch surfing host, Txa (pronounced Chah), met me at the tram stop and we had a wonderful day. Txa was the first of many people who would offer me beautiful hospitality that warmed my heart.  He is from northern Spain and so he made a delicious lunch that was a preview of what I would have on the Camino. He made tortilla – which is kind of a potato eggy thing that was delicious and we had some ham that is popular in Spain – Jamon serrano.  Txa’s neighbor, Martin made a salad from food grown in his garden, which is an outgrowth of his interest in permaculture – a sustainable, organic movement to improve the way we eat and interact with creation.  I’m also interested in eating more ethically, so I had a great time talking to him.

The inside of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig

That evening I went to a motet service at Bach’s church, which is the St. Thomas Church (Thomaskirche).  Bach is buried there, in this place where he spent the last 27 years of his life as cantor.  Also, Martin Luther preached a sermon there on Pentecost n 1539.  The music was beautiful and it was amazing to spend some worshipful time in such a historic place.  I tried to imagine what Leipzig was like in Bach’s time.  This is in the city center, which is really cute.  They were having some kind of festival, so there were all kinds of booths for food and crafts and things.  Txa says that they do that at Christmas and that it’s festive with all the decorations.

Johann Sebastian Bach

After the service, Txa met me and had a bicycle for me to ride.  We met up with two of his friends – delightful college girls – and we rode bikes around Leipzig, where they pointed out lots of historic landmarks and buildings of interest.

Hanging out at the library at the University of Leipzig

We went to a flea market which was pretty cool.  It was at a club that is usually a site for concerts – local bands playing whatever kind of music 20 somethings listen to these days.  Instead of bands, though, there were tables inside with people selling stuff – some cool, some kitchy.  Outside, people were playing ping pong, drinking beer and wine, and hanging out.  Looking around at all of these young people made me wonder where all the cool people my age are.  I know where some of them are – but why do I seem to be spending so much time around younger people?  It was starting to get dark as we left (About 10 PM in Europe this time of year). The girls went home and Txa and I rode to the Volkerschlachtdenkmal, which is the largest war memorial in Europe. (Too dark to take a picture).  We sat there on our bikes and talked until midnight about God, Catholicism, energy, and how our spiritual journeys are the same and different. Riding back to his house, I was freezing, so Txa made up a bed for me and I got under a big comforter and went to sleep.  Txa and Martin went to a party in the building.  Yeah, the cool people my age are tired. And cold.

In Boppard, Germany, with Laura Stevens

I got up at the crack of dawn and got on a train to Frankfurt to see more of Germany with Laura Stevens, who I first met at church in Oviedo.  Laura has had a huge impact on my life over the past decade, especially for someone so young.  When I was first asked to start an orchestra program at Discovery Middle School, it was Laura and her family that helped me get it going.  It was also Laura who suggested that I start writing a blog a couple of years ago. Her encouragement resulted in two very fulfilling pursuits for me.  She speaks German fluently and beautifully and works for the Wall Street Journal.

We had a delightful day together.  She met me at the train station and we took another train to Boppard.  We had sauerbraten (and beer) and then went on an afternoon cruise on the Rhine River.  It was beautiful and amazing.  After the cruise, we took this ski lift thing up a mountain.  We were both terrified on the way up, but the way down was a piece of cake.  The picture above is the view from the top.

I love Germany.  It is super adorable, being on time is important, and everything is clean.  Ice cream in Germany was really delicious too.  Back at Laura’s very stylish apartment, I did laundry (laundry was a big luxury on this trip) and we ate pizza, drank more beer (I know – it sounds like all I did was drink in Europe – but it was German beer and it was wonderful), then she made me a bed with a big, fluffy comforter and I was out.  She got up early with me, gave me a cup of coffee and some breakfast, and walked me to the metro stop in the morning as I headed out to Vienna. Even though I am 20 years older than her I continue to learn and be inspired by her.

Now I get why Germany came to mind when my dad wanted to take us on an adventure.  Germany is an amazing place with amazing people.

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I can’t believe I will be 50 in November. Luckily I had my mid-life crisis in my forties where I freaked out about losing my youth, so I’ve got that out of the way.  But as I walk towards this milestone, I realize that I am still living with some regrets. Some are for turning away from God in my early adulthood and turning towards money and romance.  Some are for my students and choir members who experienced insensitivity from me.  Some are for my part in failed relationships and the sacrifices my daughters had to make for that.  Some are for not being aware of the decline my parents were experiencing and for not stepping in to help sooner.

One thing I have always liked about the Catholic Church is the practice of penance.  Not in the way that you do these things and you’ll go to heaven, or earn God’s forgiveness, but simply having an intentional time of thinking about regrets and actively doing something that helps lay them aside.  Alcoholics Anonymous does this by the steps that ask you to make a list of people you have wronged, make amends when possible, and continue to take inventory of how this is going in your life.  While God gives grace freely, there is work that has to be done on our end sometimes that allows us to truly be able to receive that and to be in harmony with others. Instead of becoming a new creation, we can be dogged by things from our past.  When I struggled with writing a paper this semester, I didn’t simply acknowledge that the coursework at Duke Divinity School is academically challenging, but instead dug up my high school past and beat  myself up with the thought that I have always been  slacker.

It’s time to lay down the regrets of my past and to walk towards the healing that I need to be a new creation and a servant of God.

I was looking for a summer travel experience that would help me to heal from the death of my parents that was as powerful as the one I had two years ago that helped me heal from the pain of divorce.

In November, I went to a movie called The Way with my friend Jen.  During the opening credits, she whispered, “Be careful, this movie may cause wanderlust.”  The movie is about a pilgrimage in northern Spain called the Camino de Santiago.  There are many routes, but the most common one starts in the Pyranees mountains in France and people walk the 800 KM to Santiago, where there is a pilgrim’s mass held in the Cathedral of St. James.

In June, I will meet Danielle in Spain and we will walk the last 112 KM (about 70 miles) from Sarria to Santiago.  We have our backpacks and hiking boots and will be traveling light.  I am ready to let this pilgrimage guide me and be whatever the Spirit leads it to be.  My hopes are that I will lay down my past regrets and heal my past hurts as I step into a new phase of my life.

Instead of doing the whole 800 KM, I realized that I tend have more of an ADD approach to travel.  So, I will fly into Paris, and couch surf around Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy.  After the Camino, I will spend a few days in England, then end up with a few more days in Paris before returning home, spending a few days with Brittany in Hoboken on either end of the trip.

The day after I get home, is moving day, where I will move into the City Road UMC parsonage and begin my life in ministry.  I plan to carry the spirit of adventure from my parents with me throughout my travels as I walk towards this new phase of my life.

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