Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Ok, my psalm, working backwards today, was Psalm 84. It's too easy to run with the "sparrow finding a home", "How happy are your dwelling places," etc. stuff. Something a little more obscure tripped my trigger was v. 4: “Happy are the people whose strength is in you! Whose hearts are set on the pilgrim’s way.”

I got to thinking of the whole concept of “Our life as a pilgrimage.” Well, the word “pilgrimage is “a journey to a sacred place.” Sometimes I think both a plus and a minus of Christianity is we don’t have a physical place that we should take a pilgrimage at least once in our life. I mean, we don’t have a Mecca or a Varanasi or we don’t have anything like the Passover greeting “Next year in Jerusalem” that implies one should get to Jerusalem at least once. It’s a minus in that there is no “ready made place” where one can seek fulfillment in a physical form of religious journey, a place where “all of the faith should go there someday” and force us to intersect with each other on this journey. It’s a plus in that the lack of such a place frees us to create no end of pilgrimages! So really, it cuts both ways.

I got to thinking how the journeys of pilgrims intersect and intertwine and become their own journeys in themselves, all under the “umbrella” of this bigger pilgrimage. For some reason the word "adventure" popped in my head. Despite the fact I am a terrible creature of habit, I do crave adventure now and then. I did a 50 mile wagon trip once out in Wyoming, driving a team of draft horses. I went to "horse cavalry school" one summer. I helped out this summer at Iowa City partially not just to "do good" but to also fulfill that sense of adventure that gnaws at me now and then.

Well, you know, a spiritual pilgrimage, whether it is of the "standard" type like a trip to Mecca, or one you create from your own brain, is a form of an adventure! I like this definition of “adventure” I found online: “A wild and exciting undertaking, usually involving risks.” Well, you can’t get much more “wild and exciting” than trying to connect with the center of God. Think of all the risks you have taken in your own psyche to go on your spiritual adventure. Look at how many psychological risks I have taken recently in my own "40 days with Joan Chittister" adventure. Look at how we expose our own fears to each other in our commenting on each other's blogs.

But my point is pilgrimage involves adventure, it involves risk. I think in the old days, the physical wear and tear of making a pilgrimage exposed us to a different part of our soul. Getting on a plane and flying to Varanasi to get in the water where the three rivers meet is not the same as walking there. Taking a junket sponsored by the local Islamic society to Mecca is not like leaving your house with no food and expecting to be fed along the way. We don’t get that jump start to empty our souls on pilgrimages the way we used to.

But I think each of us have to, if we're serious, realize that there needs to be some form of physical discomfort, some form of "doing without" for our souls to grow, not just mental discomfort. Take the suggestion of fasting for the Millenium Development Goals day on Sept. 25. I never fasted, never had a desire to fast, EVER. In fact, I thought fasting was for crazies and asthetics. But the more I read that stuff about the day of prayer and fasting for the sake of the "hunger" goal of the MDG, I just felt it was the right thing to do. Millions of people in the world go hungry at night as a habit. For me to not go hungry for one day, at this point, just seemed so...well...wussy. Selfish. Out of touch. My thoughts the day before were like the cartoon of the "little angel" and "little devil" sitting on my shoulder. What would fasting for one day mean, really, in terms of world hunger? Those hungry people won't be eating the food I've skipped. But what came through loud and clear to me from that little angel on my shoulder was, "You don't have a CLUE what being hungry really means. You haven't even scratched the surface. You need to understand this better."

I realize now I did not do the full experience, though. I fasted and went to work. Someday I need to take a day and do nothing but fast and pray...maybe a Fri night to Sat. night or Sat. night to Sun. night. I need to see what pops into my brain when I pray and am hungry. I just went to work and was hungry the day I did it! I did get in touch with the "being hungry" concept, but I did not get the opportunity to "go deep" with it.

None the less, it was my first foray into the world of fasting. Maybe the next time I read that a Biblical character fasted, I might at least get a little of it!



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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