My Dear One,
I write this on July 25th, the annual Feast of St. James (the Great); one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, present at many key moments in Jesus’ life, later martyred for his faith by the sword of Agrippa, whose remains are said to rest in the cathedral at Compostella, Spain.
Jesus called James to discipleship, along with his brother John, in the first chapter of Mark’s gospel. Upon hearing his call, they left their father Zebedee in their fishing boat, and followed Jesus.
I know what it is like to hear the call and follow it. I also know what it is like to hear the call and not follow. In my life I have, at times, dropped the nets and stepped out of the boat. I have also stood there holding the nets, torn between my loyalties to Jesus and Zebedee. I have promised Jesus that if he first lets me finish cleaning the nets I will run to catch up with him. I have also told Jesus the nets had me trapped and I could not go.
Today, I am on the road. Not just any road, the Mother Road, Route 66. It is a last trip of the summer with my youngest son up to attend my youngest sister’s wedding. We decided to take the slower route instead of the quicker interstate. The slower routes, I find, are where adventures are to be found. The quicker routes fly by everything and everyone, equally efficient at getting you there and getting you nowhere. I am both driving towards a joyous family event and away from this past Sunday when I said goodbye to the church I have served the last few years. I am simultaneously on my way to something definite but also unsure of my destination.
As with any time of transition, there is questioning. Should I go or stay? Should I remain with these people or go forward with new ones? It is a painful weighing while also filled with hopeful expectation. I’ve left my previous church not yet completely sure where my next call will be. Sometimes this is truly unwise. And sometimes it is exactly what Jesus calls us to do.
“Come, follow me.”
He didn’t say where he was headed. He didn’t say what they would be doing. He didn’t say how it would all turn out. He didn’t say where they would lay their heads that very night. He simply extended the call to follow him, to follow The Way.
It is a journey of both Soul and Strength, which is to say of spirit and of body. These two are companions, lovers within our own lives. The spirit may heed the call but the body must be willing to move. The body knows the pleasure and pain by which the spirit grows. Every body deserves the company of a loving spirit. Every spirit, we are told, will one day regain the body it leaves behind. The spiritual and physical are in a divine dance of love, journeying together in what we too dismissively call living a life.
following The Way is the ministry Jesus called me to years ago. I am preparing to cloister myself to a degree in order to bring it to fuller fruition. This past year’s edition of following The Way has been loosely centered around weekly reflections upon instances where I have caught glimpses of The Way in my own journey. I am truly enjoying writing again. fTW used to exist as a more structured 8-month discipleship class through which I and others led small groups of people through a deep examination of their life’s journey, reflecting on how to center our Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength, every aspect of who we are, upon the love of God. Though its form will be somewhat different than in the past, I will be working in the coming months to again create such a resource. My hope is that it will add a new layer of meaning to the words I write for you in these weekly reflections.
And I will continue to write these weekly reflections, thankful that so many of you are finding them good sustenance for your own journey. I cannot express how sustaining it is to get emails back from you all. It keeps me going and helped give me courage to make this most recent move.
I will also be continuing to write the fTW-based novel that binds it all together in one overarching narrative. It’s a bit backward I know. In the future, I think most people will first go on a pilgrimage through the novel, then make a journey of their own using the fTW course with a group of friends, then be sustained by these reflections, retreats and pilgrimages based around it all. I appreciate you being here at this early next stage as I work through it all back to the beginning. Confusing? I know and I apologize. If you stick with me for the long haul, I promise you will look back with me one day and it will be meaningful to you to have seen it all unfold before others do.
I confess there is much about the details I do not know myself. But I do know that God is very much moving in my life and calling me forward in exciting and bold new directions. I can already see some things on the way: new places of ministry, new and important people in my life’s story, and a new way to help others follow The Way. Some are already present. Some I see coming down the road. Some are just cresting the horizon. And some as of yet I can only hear on the other side of this hill.
Today I give thanks for St. James, who calls me from Compostella and to whom I will someday make pilgrimage upon the Camino de Santiago. (Sorry to keep you waiting, Jim. I will get there someday.) I give thanks to the people of Salem Lutheran who lovingly walked with me through so many highs and lows this last chapter of my life. I give thanks to those who came before, to those who currently walk with me, and those I have yet to meet. I give thanks to Jesus who calls us all forward and gives us to one another as companions on our earthly pilgrimage.
This week my companion is my son, Jon. We are traveling Route 66 across Oklahoma and Missouri. It is a very old road that carries upon it the start of a very new journey. And God is very much with us, each mile of the way.
Wherever you are, whomever you are journeying with, whatever you are journeying towards … know that God travels with you this week too.
I am honored to get to be a part of your journey and thankful you are a part of mine. It’s a new chapter for me - and perhaps for us all. Let us go together …
following The Way,