Pilgrim or Tourist?

One of the books I read recently (Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron–Book Review) posed this question: when you consider your spiritual life, are you a pilgrim or a tourist? In case you’re asking yourself what’s the difference?, here are some of my thoughts.

A pilgrim is on a sacred journey; a tourist is just looking for a way to pass the time pleasantly.

A pilgrim doesn’t rush but takes time to consider how God may be speaking to him or her. A tourist tries to pack in as many activities as possible and is often distracted.

A pilgrim travels lightly. A tourist accumulates lots of souvenirs

A pilgrim does his or her own research. A tourist is content to adopt the opinions of the tour guide.

A pilgrim learns from the journey, and changes. A tourist goes back to the same way of behaving.

A pilgrim chooses activities that lead to growth. A tourist makes decisions based on what is fun and easy.

A pilgrim persists when the going gets tough. A tourist gives up and leaves.

A pilgrim strikes up relationships with other pilgrims along the way. A tourist stays with the tour group.

Do you get the idea? You can take your spiritual life seriously, pay attention, and be transformed. Or you can settle for Christian entertainment and remain a practical pagan. Which will it be? Are you a pilgrim or a tourist?

For more on spiritual growth see these posts:

Spiritual Formation by Henri Nouwen–Book Review

Are You a Spiritual Person?

Let Your Spiritual Gifts S–T–R–E–T–C–H You

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Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review

I’m not often a fan of Christian fiction, but this book was just delightful.  It’s an easy read, and you’ll soon be caught up in the story of four women:  Hannah, a pastor on sabbatical;  Meg, a widow and empty nester;  Mara, caught in an unhappy marriage, and Charissa, an ambitious and high-achieving graduate student.  They meet during a weekly spiritual retreat and find themselves becoming friends. You’ll probably see a bit of yourself and your own spiritual struggles in each one.

You’ll also learn something about spiritual disciplines, as the author discusses walking the labyrinth, the daily examen, lectio divina, reading the Scripture with imagination, having a rule of life and spiritual direction.  Since I’ve done most of these things in the past, it was a good refresher course.  It brought back many good memories from my own spiritual journey and encouraged me to think deeply about the disciplines I’m currently practicing and what changes I might make.

Each character develops and changes through their interaction with one another and with God.  You’ll find yourself drawn into their lives, and pondering the landmarks of your personal faith journey.  There are discussion questions at the end, making it a good pick for a book club.

VERDICT:  5 Stars.  I’ve already requested the second book in the series from the local library!

For more book reviews of Christian fiction see these posts:

The Beloved Daughter by Alana Terry — Book Review

a long time comin’ by Robin W. Pearson — Book Review

white picket fences by Susan Meissner–Book Review

 

What Damages our Spiritual Life? (according to Hannah Whitall Smith)

“Anything allowed in the heart which is contrary to the will of God, let it seem ever so insignificant, or be it ever so deeply hidden, will cause us to fall before our enemies.  Any root of bitterness cherished toward another, any self-seeking, any harsh judgments indulged in, any slackness in obeying the voice of the Lord, any doubtful habits or surroundings, any one of these things will effectively cripple and paralyze our spiritual life.  I believe our blessed Guide, the indwelling Holy Spirit, is always secretly discovering these things to us by continual little twinges and pangs of conscience, so that we are left without excuse.

Hannah Whitall Smith

This quote was found in my daily devotional.  Hannah Whitall Smith was originally a Quaker, and was influenced heavily by the Holiness Movement in the United States.  This movement believed that complete sanctification was possible (Lutheran doctrine denies this idea).  She was an author, evangelist and speaker, and is well known for her book, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.   For other quotes see these posts:

Christ Alone

How to Recognize a Christian

 

 

Out of Your Devotional Life

I posted recently about a Fanning the Flame CD our team spent time hearing.  The topic was “protecting the pastor’s time” and it focused on how the pastor must be allowed time to pray and study because (get this, it’s important):  his preaching must flow out of his devotional life.  If your pastor is not speaking with and listening to God, his preaching may be great public speaking, but it won’t be the Word that God wants you and your church family to hear right now.

The next thing that came to my mind is this:  all of us need to protect our times of prayer and study because:  the ministry we undertake must flow out of our devotional life.  Just like the pastor, if we are not taking time to listen to God and follow his leading, we may do a million “good” things that are not the task God has in mind for us, right here and right now.

Prayer

It’s easy to get distracted.  It’s easy to give in to putting out fires and taking care of what seems urgent, instead of what’s truly important.  There are times when we need to step in, but often we create our own “emergencies” because we enjoy feeling needed and indispensable.  Maybe we even enjoy being the martyr who has to do it all because nobody else seems interested.  This isn’t just a modern day problem.  Remember what Jesus told Martha?

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;  one thing is needful.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41-42

Mary was taking the time to listen to the Lord;  Martha was following her own agenda.  Letting our ministry flow out of our devotional life takes patience and discipline.  Sometimes it will require waiting for the Lord’s timing; sometimes it will make us uncomfortable;  but it can be done.  Help when you can, but don’t forget to make time for “the good portion.”

 

“To Die is Gain.”

Once upon a time . . .

when humanity was young, and quite innocent; they lived in a place of unimaginable beauty and endless possibility. And then humanity was deceived. We failed to trust our creator, and though the lie was not ours, the doubt and greed fully belong to us. The rejection was not of the place, the food, or the vast kingdom that in inheritance belonged to us as well. The rejection was power and love our Father and Lord possessed. We rejected Him.

What was not known in the dawn of time was that with the failure of trust, blinded by greed and naivety, revelations would be made. The tree of knowledge of Good, and Evil. The name says as much as it implies. Before what would they have known? Neither good nor Evil. The infinite wisdom of God would be too much for them to bear. A better way is to slowly introduce information, to take eternity and explain and teach. God wanted to show us the universe while building a relationship.

From the very beginning it was Him who loved us more.  Suddenly, too suddenly, we knew what worse than bad was. We knew shame, and embarrassment, and lust. We knew regret, and sadness, and fear. We were overwhelmed.

Still God our Father loved us. For our own sakes, he removed us from Heaven. People without self-discipline tend to ruin good things. Not to mention Everlasting Life (The tree of Life) combined with Irrational, self-destructive sin would be disastrous. Therefore, we were separated. How painful that was. Not only for us, but for God. The Alpha and Omega that feels anguish as well as joy. Can you imagine first being rejected by your children, and then having to remove them from the situation to protect them? Maybe some can, because all this resulted in a broken world. A world that for our own sakes requires a barrier of sorts.

Luke 16:26 “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”

Not only between heaven and hell, but between heaven and earth. It’s a burden we must bear. Although Christ came so that we can eventually see our heavenly home, we mustn’t risk it with open borders. Narrow is the road. While we have hope of seeing not only our loved ones but also our merciful Savior, there’s still a gap. A lonely realization that we are to suffer here till our time comes. As Christians, it’s not that we don’t believe in a better, very real, life that exists beyond our reach; it’s that we cannot follow where they go. It’s the harsh separation that stares us in the face. Our despair comes with the knowledge that these bodies we inhabit must endure here for a time.

Philippians 1:21&22 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. So what shall I choose?  I do not know. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

The End?

Use It or Lose It

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:17

God’s word is meant to be used.  Think about it.  It’s not just ancient history, or beautiful poetic language. It’s not a philosophy that you can decide to take or leave.  It has a purpose, an important purpose.  Reading and listening to God’s word trains us to be better people, shows us what we need to change and prepares us to do His work in the world.

Do you read the Bible this way? Do you meditate on it daily?  Do you take the words of the Sunday sermon to heart? Do you realize that the Bible is God’s love letter to you, today? Or do you take it for granted?

At a Via de Cristo retreat one of the things we learn is to take time with a group of other Christians to evaluate our spiritual lives.  I’m in such a group and here are some of the questions we ask each other every time we meet:

What have you studied this week to better understand Jesus Christ and His mystical body, the church?

What was the most helpful Spiritual insight from your study?

What will be your plan for next week to enrich your study?

I try to ask myself these questions regularly.  It helps me think about and understand where God is leading me.  If I don’t do this, chances are I’ll miss an opportunity to grow and learn in my faith.  What about you?  How have you used God’s Word this week?

 

 

Who We Are is How We Pray

I’ve been looking through my books on prayer — I have a whole shelf of them, some of you probably do, too.  Anyway, I came across one I hadn’t thought about for a long time, Who We Are is How We Pray, by Dr. Charles J. Keating.

Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs personality test?  Many companies offer it, or similar tests, to help employees better understand themselves and relate more effectively to others.  What on earth, you’re probably wondering does this have to do with my prayer life?  Well, several of our posts have alluded to the fact that there are many ways to pray;  Dr. Keating’s book is intended to match your personality type with particular types of prayer that will work best for you.

He starts by explaining the personality types, and there is a shortened version of the Myers-Briggs test you can take to figure out what “type” you are.  Then he goes on to advice and prayer models for each one.

Dr. Keating says:

Knowing myself better helped me to understand why I found some kinds of prayer attractive and other kinds uninteresting. … When our spiritual way is out of ‘sync’ with our personality we do not hear God’s call as clearly as we need to.

This book probably isn’t for everybody, but if you are feeling ‘out of sync’ in your own prayer life, it could be an eye-opener.  Let me know if you decide to give it a try!