Today’s post is the first in a series contributed by Mary De Jong regarding her recent pilgrimage to Iona.
The article was first posted at asacredjourney.net Mary lives in Seattle, Washington (USA) and has traveled to Iona many times, both on personal pilgrimage and as a retreat leader for personal discernment pilgrimages and retreats. Her personal studies of Celtic Christianity have led her to pursue graduate studies in theology with an ecological focus, with the hopeful vision of sharing with urban communities about our inherent need for Creation and how to live forward in such a way that honors Other and the Future. Mary’s first published title, Waymarkers (2011), is a unique pilgrimage journal specific to the journey to Iona; it has been received with excitement by pilgrims the world over and has been endorsed by many Iona Community associates.
“ISN’T IT TIME THAT YOUR DRIFTING WAS CONSECRATED INTO PILGRIMAGE? YOU HAVE A MISSION. YOU ARE NEEDED. THE ROAD THAT LEADS TO NOWHERE HAS TO BE ABANDONED…. IT IS A ROAD FOR JOYFUL PILGRIMS INTENT ON THE RECOVERY OF PASSION.”
We all go about the busyness of our lives; busyness consumes us and rarely do we have a moment to sit, to listen, to breath. And then one day we are awakened to a feeling of deep disturbance–something vital is missing in life.
Out of this absence a question begins to emerge. This question looms and feels too big for the typical, daily answer sources. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram…they just don’t seem to cut it; nor should they! These venues, along with anything else in life that doesn’t align with the deep longing that is now upon you, are but mere distractions. For these questions are rooted deep in our inner soulscape and demand a rigorous process that is befitting to the eternal stuff from which we are made.
There is restlessness and an urgency to come home to your true self, a deep longing for personal integration. This longing, this asking kick starts the seeking process, as it is inherently true that you cannot cultivate an integrated home-space for your soul unless you first have intentionally gone out and away from all that you know and are comfortable within.
“All that is worthwhile,” says the great Jesuit scholar and paleontologist Teilard de Chardin, “is action.” The soul needs us to respond to the urgent and irksome call with ardency. And nothing is more befitting than to respond with a get-up-and-go; to draw a line in the sand and exclaim, “From henceforth, I am a seeker! I am leaving what I know to be my collections and comforts of home, and I am going to hit the road on a pilgrimage!”
PILGRIMAGE AWAKENS THE SOUL
Pilgrimage. What is it about this word that causes one’s emotions to stand on guard – both compelled and cautious at the same time? Indeed, it is a loaded word, packed with ages of political and parochial themes.
Even with the historical entrapping of this concept, there is a much more ancient restlessness that is deep within our collective consciousness to be on the move and to engage questions and the Answer in the process. Wasn’t even Jehovah carried in a box on the backs of a nomadic people? Wasn’t Jesus of Nazareth, upon fully integrating his ministry with his divinity, also hitting the road and on the move? Getting up and moving to the parameters of our life, to the absolute edges, is where we engage our senses and awaken our souls.
I believe that what agitates people when they first engage the concept of pilgrimage is that it literally unsettles them. The domesticity that ties us down to the perceptions of our lives begins to untie and unravel as this seeker-path begins its work of instigating a longing and a calling to go, to move, to discover the Divine in this ancient process.
When you first hear of pilgrimage, whether it is the perspective or a place, it is as if something comes on to you that will stay with you, call to you your entire life until The Longing and The Call has been met and engaged.
There is a general unsettling that is upon people of faith these days. The traditional means and methods of creating and cultivating a spiritual practice appear to have gone stale. The weekly trek to church can be driven thoughtlessly as can the participation in the service’s rituals. It even seems, as the community that assembles for corporate worship are so compatible, that carbon copies seem a more appropriate designation.
Despite long standing connections, there is a need to go and shake things up! Vacillation results in inactivity and indecisiveness. Resolution and an intentional move to action initiates Providence to move. You do not need God’s presence when sitting on the couch undecided. You are desperate for the Divine when you decide to go and commit to The Call. That is when the energy begins to flow and synchronicities start and happen all around you.
Each of us has an unconventional soul, yet we are taught to feed and nurture it by the most conventional standards. Pilgrimage, while as ancient as our bipedal designed bodies, is now seen as an unconventional expression in our culture. However, if we are going to give the soul the feeding it needs, we are going to need to go against the grain and go to where are souls are freed to search for, and find, God in fresh new ways. This path of discovery ultimately attunes us to our souls as well, and authentic expressions of our unique gifts and talents on behalf of a greater and common good is the result.
The response to The Call, which most often requires a leaving of sorts, is a certain kind of action that most often leads to transformation, most often fulfillment and freedom, and an alignment of our individual soul with the Divine Soul. Pursue the place that makes your heart skip and your eyes shine for here is where you will find your Answer and God in disguise.
“SINCE WE ARE TRAVELERS AND PILGRIMS IN THE WORLD, LET US EVER PONDER ON THE END OF THE ROAD, THAT IS OUR LIFE, FOR THE END OF OUR ROADWAY IS OUR HOME.”
ST. COLUMBA, SERMON
I convene pilgrimage retreats to Iona, Scotland and in the Pacific Northwest for individuals who respond to the call to engage this different mode of travel; all are desperate for a new way of moving through their world and discovering God anew. Every retreat participant with whom I have worked has felt the deep uprooting that occurs when the call to go is upon them and are relieved and refreshed by a practice and a place that will demand action, questions and a search for answers.
My choice to lead retreats to Iona is very intentional. It provides all the trappings of a good pilgrimage: historical significance, a saintly presence, a continuous line of faithful heritage, and a requirement to travel there with intention. Moreover, Iona is the historical birthplace of the Celtic Christian tradition and so by going here, I can also invite conversation and attentiveness to the natural world around us. One of the key themes of this unique expression of the Christian faith is that nature is revelatory.
The early Celtic church had a fundamental belief in the revelatory nature of the created world. Every tree, blade of grass, and wild goose’s cry was imbued with the Spirit of God and spoke to the character of the Creator. These “theophanies” – God showings — were expected and sought after as a way to understand the sacred mysteries.
The ninth century Irish teacher, John Scotus Eriugena, believed that God was the ‘Life Force” within all things, “…therefore every visible and invisible creature can be called a theophany” (John Scotus Eriugena, Periphyseon-The Division of Nature, 749D). The entire created world upholds something of the essence of the Creator. Eriugena also taught that there are two primary ways in which the sacred is revealed – the Bible and creation: “Through the letters of Scripture and the species of creature…” mysteries of God are revealed.
PILGRIMAGE DEMANDS YOUR PRESENCE
By convening a pilgrimage process to Iona, Scotland, there is an invitation to integrate the natural world around us into our spiritual lens and live and move forward in ways that are holistic and healthy for both ourselves and the greater community of things, of which we are a part. It becomes ridiculous to maintain a life-pace that disallows the seeing of the world around us.
Iona, and really any pilgrimage site for that matter, requires a slowing down, a waking up, and an ardent listening.What matters on the journey is this: how deeply you see, how attentively you hear, and how richly the encounters are felt in your heart and soul.
“Pilgrimage makes us vulnerable and different,” said Father Edward Murphy, a Roman Catholic priest based at the Yugoslavian shrine of Medujorge. “It gives us the freedom to step out of the ordinary and do something heroic and also to empty ourselves completely.” (quoted in Ian Bradley’s Pilgrimage, 201).
Aitareya Brahmana says it this way, “The feet of the wanderer are like the flower, his soul growing and reaping fruit; and all his sins are destroyed by his fatigues in wandering. Therefore wander.”
The same language recurs throughout the millennia. Leaving things behind. Going to a new place where a new start can be made. Becoming renewed, refreshed, rejuvenated. And because there is a great cost associated with this decision to become a pilgrim, you begin to become different. The mall, your desk, your commute – all begin to feel strangely restrictive; your spirit has been summoned to go and go you must. You have become a seeker. And journeying a long road is bound to offer something, which you seek. But even if you have no great epiphanies on the way, there will be a lot more truth in your life than there was.
Personal reflections for this stage of longing…*
(originally used for Mary’s Thresholds of Awakening retreat)
What is your life story up to this point?
What themes are woven through your years?
Do you discern a pattern in the sacred story you are living?
Share your reflections in the comments below
*These are questions that require the presence of the Spirit – the One who has been with you since the beginning and who can remind you of your authentic expressions. Also, noticing where your heart wanders during these chambered, reflective moments will show you the direction of your true longing.
I am back in Australia, flying down with only 48 hours notice after learning that my mother is probably in her last days. She has pancreatic cancer, diagnosed a couple of days after Tom and I returned from our last trip.
This is the hardest trip I have ever made, grieving the whole way for the mother I knew and not sure if she would still be alive when I got here. Walking into her hospital room and seeing her face light up with delight made it well worth the rigours of the journey. Now we wait, our hearts aching but accepting what is happening.
I have never been more aware of the love of God surrounding all of us and holding us in the eternal presence. My mother and all those who love her are in God’s care. And in the midst of that comfort I catch a glimpse of the depths of God’s incredible love. God’s heart aches not just for the grief we are suffering but for every hurting and suffering person in our world. Love hurts but it is certainly worth it at least that’s what I think and I suspect God does too.
John Birch posted this beautiful prayer which has been a great comfort to me as I travel.
True healing is more
of flesh and blood,
or knitting of bone to bone.
True healing is wholeness,
where body, soul and spirit unite.
True healing is peace,
the knowledge of God’s presence,
a hope that knows no end.
True healing cries ‘Father,
not my will but yours.’
True healing knows love
a love that casts out fear.
True healing overcomes,
This post consists of prayers posted each day on the Light for the Journey Facebook page – enjoy
Today’s prayer inspired by this quote from Jan Johnson’s book When the Soul Listens:
“Contemplative prayer and the contemplative lifestyle it will create, is really for those who are ready to quit the small, self-absorbed confines of the old man… and be made new. And nothing is newer in this world than a man or a woman who is alive with God’s love”
God almighty, lover of my soul
May we seek you for yourself alone,
May we know the wonder of you love,
Above, below, before, behind,
May it fill, surround and hold us.
© Christine Sine
May our ears be attuned
to the whisper of God,
our hearts open
to the love of God,
our voices raised
in the worship of God
and our lives transformed
by the power of God.
Give wings to our prayers O Lord,
Let our desire for justice fly to you.
Let our hearts of compassion be filled by you,
Let our passion for righteousness be guided by you.
Give wings to our prayers O Lord,
Let the rise as incense before you.
Let them find favour in your sight,
Let them show us the wonder of your love.
Give wings to our prayers O Lord,
Let them lead us to unity,
Let them free us to serve you,
Let them guide us to eternal life.
© Christine Sine
A beautiful litany from The Celtic Way of Prayer by Esther de Waal – one of my favourite Celtic books
O true Priest, O true Physician, O true Prophet, O true Friend,
O only Sustainer of the Threefold mansion,
O only life of all created things,
O only Light of the seven heavens,
O Subject of the Scriptures meditation.
O Object o the chief prophets search,
O Marrow of true wisdom,
O Father of life,
O Voice of the people.
(Note: the threefold mansion is earth, heaven and hell.
© Christine Sine
God of the past,
accept the people we have been
and the baggage we drag behind us.
God of the present,
accept the people we are now
and the potential that lies within us.
God of the future,
accept the people we could be
and by your Spirit transform us.
God before me
God beside me
God behind me
God is with me
God to lead me
God to accompany me
God to provoke me
God is with me
God my light
God my companion
God my shield
God is with me
God the Father
God the Son
God the Spirit
The Three in One
Micha Jazz http://stcuthbertsoratory.wordpress.com/prayer-cell/
Tom and I have just returned from Evangelicals for Social Action’s 40th Anniversary celebration. Tom had the privilege of participating in an hilarious roast celebrating the retirement of Ron Sider, founder of ESA.
It was a delight to share vision with the new ESA presidents Al Tizon and Paul Alexander. They also reminded us that change especially on this scale, is both scary and filled with possibility and promise.
This is a time of change and transition for Mustard Seed Associates too, not on the same scale as in ESA, but change none less that can be scary as well as offering new possibility and promise.
- Mustard Seed House is in transition
- Mustard Seed Village is in transition
- Mustard Seed Board is in transition.
What’s Happening at the Mustard Seed Village?
The 22nd Celtic retreat is coming fast. This year’s program offers new and exciting opportunities that reflect some of our transitions. Inspired by St Brendan, our featured Irish saint, who sailed into new and unchartered waters in the 5th century, our retreat has us sailing into new waters and exploring new expressions of life and faith. Our theme, Celebrating the Newness, has taken on a prophetic edge not just in the development of the new youth program, but also as we work with collaborators Ryan Marsh and Kendra Long to reshape and strengthen our existing adult and children’s programs.
This retreat will feature a new and experimental program for youth 13-18 years. Led by Cindy Todd, this progam will invite participants to explore their God given creativity and reflect on ways it can be used to create new sustainable models for life and faith.
For all of us, the afternoon will provide many active ways to express our faith from painting a Celtic mural for our new building, to walking prayer trails and our labyrinth. We may also get to make solar cookers and build boats to journey with Brendan.
For those that spend the weekend we offer extended times for quiet reflection as well as great times of fellowship and fun interwoven with a rhythm of morning and evening prayer. In the afternoon we will also dedicate our new, though still unfinished building, celebrating another step forward for the Mustard Seed Village.
We are especially grateful for those of you who contributed to Graham Kerr’s appeal which helped us raise the beams and begin roof construction. If you want to contribute there is still time to do so.
What’s Happening at the Mustard Seed House?
The Mustard Seed House is changing too. At the end of May we said goodbye to Ricci and Eliacin and their kids Catie, Gabriel and Elias who have moved to a new house in Shoreline. They have been an important part of not just the Mustard Seed House community but of the MSA team in the last 7 years.
Ricci and Eliacin played central roles in helping us rethink MSA as a community based organization. Together we experimented with the Quaker discernment process and integrated it into the life of MSA. Together we experimented with morning and evening prayers, which became our first MSA publication Light for the Journey.
It was Eliacin who encouraged me to start blogging and helped us connect to new networks in the Pacific Northwest. Ricci and Catie facilitated the expansion of the Mustard Seed garden into the productive ministry it is today. Ricci’s work with the MSA publications Waiting for the Light, Prayers of a Difference Sort, and A Journey into Wholeness has been invaluable. Their presence will be missed though their friendship will continue.
At the beginning of June we welcomed Michael and Kristin Carrocino and their kids Mirella and Caedmon to the Mustard Seed community. We are enjoying getting to know each other and exploring ways that this new community can express the purposes of God’s kingdom together. Mirella has already planted her first garden and Kristen has begun editing A Journey into Wholeness. Michael started work at the beginning of July as the new curate at St Mark’s Cathedral.
What’s Happening with the MSA Board?
In the last year we have said goodbye to four Board members: Coe Hutchison, Shonnie Scott, Paul Stephenson and Jill Alyard Young. All have served faithfully for at least ten years but relocation and new commitments make ongoing participation challenging. They continue to participate in the broader circle of Mustard Seed Associates however, providing valuable encouragement, support and advice.
New Board members Jonathan and Jennifer Campbell, Neil Gavin and J.Paul Fridenmaker, are stirring us to reimagine new possibilities for how we carry out our goals and live into God’s purposes for us. We affirmed the already existing MSA vision and goals but began discussing new ways in which these might be expressed. We appreciate your prayers as we discern God’s will for us for the future.
What’s Happening with Cascadia?
The cancellation of the Cascadia CCSP program for September because of lack of students was a disappointment for all of us. We are passionate about the need for sustainability education for university students and believe that this program will still come into being but for the foreseeable future it is on the backburner. The indefinite postponement of CCSP Cascadia has planted new seeds, however. Some of these are already beginning to emerge as new partnerships and collaborative relationships.
“View every MSA venture as a collaborative opportunity”, Jonathan Campbell encouraged at a recent Board retreat, and as we look to the future we sense that collaborative partnerships will be key to our ongoing development.
What’s Happening with the MSA web?
Tom and I have both just read The New Digital Age, by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, a challenging book that some describe as a guide to the future. It talks about how technology is reshaping war, peace, freedom and people. It is also reshaping faith, spiritual practice and discipleship. This encourages us to realize that our new developments on the web are vital to our journey.
The popularity of prayers, like this new breath prayer and resources like this post on creating spiritual resilience, shows the vital need for connecting followers of Jesus to ongoing resources that ground us in our faith.
There is also a growing interest in resources like Andy Wade’s series, Intentionally Ordinary, that stir our imaginations encouraging us to create new possibilities for life and faith for the future. We ask for your continued prayers and support as we reshape these areas of our ministry.
Pray for us in transition time
- Pray for the MSA team and Board as we work together to discern God’s purposes for MSA into the future
- Pray for the ongoing construction of the Mustard Seed Village and the finances needed to complete it.
- Pray for our upcoming Celtic Prayer retreat and the spiritual renewal of all who attend.
- Pray for the reshaping of the MSA website and Godspace which will continue over the next few months
- Pray for Tom as he works on his new book Join the Innovation Revolution.
Today’s post is the second written by Brad Culver who is presently homesteading in eastern Ontario and also involved in an inter-faith community. The article was first published on National ThoughtWorks Blog Brad also blogs at Living Water from an Ancient Well
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.
Elizabeth Barret Browning
Mundane = common place
God is found in the common places. He walked in the cool of the day. He was found in the still small voice. He rides on the wings of the wind. His glory is etched in the drifting clouds above. Present in the fragrance of a flower. Jesus lived in the ordinary world, ate ordinary food, walked among ordinary people, miracles were performed in common place in ordinary moments, at a wedding, on a hillsides, along dusty roads in the parching heat of the day.
The mundane moments of daily life are ripe with His presence, doing the dishes, driving to work, nursing the baby, waiting on tables, walking in the woods. The Celtic culture nurtured and facilitated a sacramental approach to life. Not only recognizing but expecting Gods presence in the ordinary routine and rhythm of the day.
The Celt’s recognized and celebrated the sacred in the common place. They anticipated and invited the presence into everyday activities such as setting the fireplace, milking the cow, churning the butter, ploughing the fields.
“I AM smooring the fire As the Son of Mary would smoor Blest be the house, blest be the fire, Blest be the people all.” (a blessing for preparing the night hearth)
“The guarding of God and the Lord be yours… Traveling mead’s long and grassy…Be the bright Michael king of the angels Protecting, and keeping, and saving you.” ( a portion herders prayer)
These Celtic missionary wanders became known as the Peregrini.
The Peregrini, (among their number Columba,Columbanus and Aidan) journeyed to the nearby northern islands, the Orkneys and Faroes. Then on to Scotland, England, the forests of Germany, the rugged hills of Gaul, the foothills of the Alps, the valleys of the Rhine and the Danube, and to the cities and remote valleys of Italy. Some went singly, as hermits, others, in small groups, often numbering up to 13, imitating Jesus and the Twelve. Their numbers multiplied so greatly that they became a characteristic feature of Western Europe through most of the period from 500 to 950
Today’s post is written by Brad Culver who for over 25 years, together with his wife Mary has given leadership to non-traditional faith communities. One being the Refuge (and the Refuge Café) an alternative (emergent) faith community, which was birthed in 1994 and continues on today under younger leadership. Presently we are homesteading in eastern Ontario and are involved in an inter-faith community. The article was first published on National ThoughtWorks Blog Brad also blogs at Living Water from an Ancient Well
11And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: 12And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 13And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 1Kings 19:11-13
Between keeping ourselves distracted and waiting we miss a lot in life. Waiting for when I grow up. Waiting to get that job. Waiting to find that special person. Waiting to retire . Waiting to that buy new whatever. We live in anticipation of some future fulfillment.
In my faith journey i had observed in my self and others particularly in ‘spirit filled’ circles much of life being projected into the future and taken up with passing time, waiting for something to happen. Waiting for the fire to fall Waiting for that revival to break out. Waiting for that miracle. Waiting for the next move of God. We anxiously await the big thing to unfold in our lives, passing time till we die and “go to heaven.”
Most of the “big moments” in our lives tend to take place in the ordinariness of daily life. God is to be found in the ordinary and mundane. We are often so busy we can’t see the forest for the trees. We miss the miracles unfolding before our eyes. We miss God’s immediate presence in the wonder of the ordinary.
Song writer Nick Cave captures this thought so beautifully in these lyrics from his song “Get Ready for Love”
Nothing much really happens
And God rides high in his ordinary sky
Until we find ourselves at our most distracted
And the miracle that was promised
Creeps silently by.
God never promised to answer every question or be an easy access rabbits foot. What he has promised however, is that He would never leave us or forsake us. That he would be present with us at every moment, in all our joy and sorrow, in our waking in our sleeping, in our work and in our play.
What if we were to attempt to be conscious of God’s presence in the ordinary now, in daily situations? How would this transform our thoughts, our actions, our encounters with others?
Buddhists refer to this being present in each moment, each breath as mindfulness. For followers of Christ this can be understood as practicing the presence of God.
A 17th century Carmelite monk, Brother Lawrence considered “the practice of the presence of God’ to be at the center of authentic Christian spirituality. He learned the discipline of being constantly aware of Gods presence especially in the ordinary and mundane during his forty years of doing dishes and daily tasks for his monastic community.
He wrote, “There is not in the world, a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.”
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. [Psalm 139:7-12]
Embracing the ordinary and cultivating the practice of becoming aware of Gods presence in the mundane moments and responding, could also be framed as life in the Spirit.
I remember in my early years as a follower of Christ one of my big questions was “how does one walk in the spirit”. I used to ask that of every Christian i meet.. It often got me into trouble. One day while reading The Pursuit of God by A. W Tozer. I came across this simple passage; “The universal presence of God is a fact. God is here.The whole universe is alive with his life…we have with in us the ability to know him if we will but respond to his overtures” and thus unfolds the mystery of the mundane.
Brad Culver Ontario Region
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