Pilgrim Notes

Reflections along the way.

Month: February 2008

Larry Norman 4/8/1947 – 2/24/08

I first stumbled across Larry Norman‘s “In Another Land” LP in the early 1980s, and I played it over and over and over. Those songs made an indelible imprint upon me and the way I think. I rapidly snatched up all the Larry Norman music I could find. During the last month, I’ve been listening to his music over and over again.

Today in the age of mp3s, there is so much music abounding everywhere, I rarely have the same experience with music becoming deeply ingrained in my memories like they did back then.

I am grateful to Larry and the music he produced and pray blessings upon him and his family.

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Dusty Saints

The psalmist cries out to the Lord,

“My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word.”

During Lent, the cry of the psalmist becomes the cry of God’s people. Like Adam we hear the resounding Word of God announcing, “For you are dust and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19).

Unlike the birds, we have flown beyond the horizon to the moon, and we may even fly to Mars. Unlike the fish we have learned how to live under the sea and upon the land. Unlike the ants, we’ve built buildings that stand and stand and stand and continue to stand. Unlike the apes, we’ve formed clans and towns and cites and nations.

While inspired by the world around us, humans continually discover new ways to rise above the natural order. Like gods, we create, we rule, we master, we thrive. In rain and drought, we survive. We work in darkness and light. When new obstacles cross our path, we learn ways to surmount the obstacles and even use the energy from our struggle to grow even stronger.

Diseases may threaten us but eventually, we find ways to overcome. Even while facing the dreaded cancer, diabetes, heart disease and AIDs, we don’t give up. In fact, we are discovering more and more solutions to fight and win the battle against these threats.

The accomplishments of humanity boggle the mind. We live in a time of such exploding innovation that no one can even keep up with all the new discoveries that surface day after day after day.

We are lords of creation, and yet, we are still nothing more than dust. In spite of our power, our creations, our glory, we are fading. Soon we will die. And soon we will be forgotten. Like the grass, we wither and fall and fade.

We are but dust and to dust we will return.

When God decided to image Himself, He created a world. From this world, He took the dust and breathed upon it, and “man became a living being.” In spite of our accomplishments, we have no life outside of the breath that sustains us each moment.

Take that breath away, and we falter and fade. Thus the psalmist prays, “My soul clings to dust.” And yet, even as he acknowledges his dustiness, he calls upon the Word of God to revive him. The psalmist knows that the Word of God breathes life into his dust, for the Word is forever settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89).

While we rejoice and celebrate the wonder of human accomplishments, let us not be intimidated by the appearance of human mastery. We are not of the universe after all. Our kingdoms fall. Our innovations fail. Our power fades. We are but dust.

As we journey through the Lenten wilderness, let us cling to the Word of the Lord. His breath sustains, his Word creates and re-creates us. And by His grace alone, we can feed upon the Word that will stand forever.

Lent – The Call

When I first heard it, I turned to see who was addressing me, but all eyes were on the singer at the front. The voice seemed too articulate to be a thought passing though my mind. And the words…the words seemed so mundane. God’s call to me didn’t come with trumpets and prophecies of glory and fire. But rather, I heard a still small voice say, “The time is not yet.”

For the past year, I had been considering exchanging my dreams of filmmaking for a life of ministry. Leading a drama team and speaking at various local churches stirred a vision in me to cry out and call a slumbering church to renewal. Our pastor consulted me on seminary plans where I could pursue a life in ministry.

Now those plans began to fade as an understated voice let me know that “the time is not yet.” Somehow I realized that this was a call of renunciation. I was being called to let go of my ideas of ministry, to let go of my passion to a build God’s kingdom, to let go of my plan for the days ahead. The voice was calling me to pilgrimage.

The psalmist writes, “Blessed is the man whose heart is set on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84). As we begin the 40 days of lent, we remember this call to pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is different than an adventure. J.R.R. Tolkien distinguished an adventure from a journey as a “there and back again tale.” We head out on an adventure, we have an exciting time and we might even risk our lives, but at the end of the adventure we return home. But leaving on a journey means never coming home.

While a pilgrimage may seem like a “here and back again tale,” it is really a journey of renunciation with no hope of looking back. Jesus invited his disciples to pilgrimage and suggested “looking back” was not a luxury afforded to disciples.

During lent, we are reminded that the call of faith is a call of renunciation. In one sense, all of us really are “poor wayfaring pilgrims.” The Lord of glory calls us from the future, inviting us to let go and keep letting go and keep letting go. Abraham was called forth to leave behind the world he knew.

The ancient Celts set forth on pilgrimage as peregrini, searching for their “place of resurrection.” The peregrini were not driven by “wanderlust” but rather of sense of obedience. Leaving the homes they loved, they traveled across the British Isles and the European continent, setting up little communities of faith along the way.

In some sense, we still hear that same call of renunciation. We are called to search for our place of resurrection and establish communities of faith as we go. 22 years ago, I heard a quiet, non-dramatic call, “the time is not yet,” and today I still feel the echoes of that call shaking my body and mind.

As we growing older, the act of renunciation often becomes more difficult. We grow comfortable accumulating stuff. From books and clothes and trinkets to ideas and habits and attitudes. Every so often, the voice comes booming forth, “the time is not yet.”

It’s not time to settle yet. It’s not time to sleep yet. It’s not time to die yet. I wrote that last line because at the end of my kidney illness, I assumed the journey was closing and soon I would leave. But the Father gently said, “the time is not yet.”

Our little Spring of Light community started lent with this reminder. The fire in our beloved “Living Room” gave us the opportunity to step forth as pilgrims once again. We won’t return to that building but will step forward into the next world our Father is preparing.

Whether you observe lent or not, I encourage you to listen and follow the gentle prodding of our Father. No matter how young or old, He continues to gently call us forward into the fullness of His kingdom. As we stop to look at all we’ve accomplished or accumulated, he reminds us, “the time is not yet.”

Spring of Light Community


After a church fire last week, the Spring of Light community will be spending lent on pilgrimage. We’re a small family of friends who are learning to enter into relationship with one another and with whoever comes across our path. Following the simple rule of St. Francis, we seek to bless those who cross our path with the peace of God. We eat together, sing together, watch movies together, and are gradually learning what it looks like to spend our lives together. Along the way, we’ve met many friends who join us for various parts of the journey. After mourning the loss of our building, we’ve chosen to mark the time there with a slideshow celebrating the seasons of life that we have shared.

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