Tuesday, October 28, 2008

El Camino de Santiago: Logrono Refugio

"Did you like that last bit?" asks Ian from London about the long, boring trek through Logrono's industrial section. "Fighting it every step of the way, I'd say," he says greeting another pilgrim coming into the dorm room who just completed the day's hike. This dorm has ¾ walls separating each group of pilgrims into two or three bunk beds to a 7x7 space. We are packed into a tight maze and must walk through each others bed area. But the cool thing is that you can see over the wall and talk with other pilgrims.

The sleeping arrangements in the Spanish refugios make all of us one big family. We sleep together; take our clothes off and on in the same unisex rooms. There are private shower stalls. In some refugios there maybe coed shower rooms with private stalls, which makes it very interesting if the shower stall is so tight that you must hang your towel and clothes outside the mini-stall. But most refugios have separate shower rooms for men and women. Still makes you feel like family when you are trying to hurry your shower as other women wait outside the shower stall. I like to do as much as I can outside the shower booth before I jump in because others are waiting.

This afternoon before today's shower I realized that my backpacker light-weight towel had been taken from the clothesline from the last albergue in Los Arcos. "I distinctly remember hanging my towel on the line in the garden last night with my other things. I went out this morning and took everything down from the line as I was packing, " I said to Ermigard, a pathologist from Germany. "I didn't realize until now that my towel was not hanging on the line."

"Here use my towel," she offered. "It is slightly wet, but it is better than nothing." So I use the damp towel of a woman I met only two days ago, but who now is family.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Meet Author and Innovative Church Leader Craig Groeschel

Dan was blown away by Craig Groeschel's new book, It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It, and decided to offer a study at Trinity Heights United Methodist Church. We were blessed to meet Craig and his wife, Amy this past Sunday at the Mesa campus of Life Church. Dan's sister Kathy and her husband Rolf serve at the Mesa campus of Life Church.

About the Book

From the Back Cover: "When Craig Groeschel founded LifeChurch.tv, the congregation met in a borrowed two-car garage, with ratty furnishings and faulty audiovisual equipment. But people were drawn there, sensing a powerful, life-changing force Groeschel calls “It.”

"What is It, and how can you and your ministry get—and keep—It? Combining in-your-face honesty with off-the-wall humor, this book tells how any believer can obtain It, get It back, and guard It.

"One of today’s most innovative church leaders, Groeschel provides profile interviews with Mark Driscoll, Perry Noble, Tim Stevens, Mark Batterson, Jud Wilhite, and Dino Rizzo.

"This lively book will challenge churches and their leaders to maintain the spiritual balance that results in experiencing It in their lives."

To see what Life Church is all about go to: http://www.lifechurch.tv/ Dan's class starts on October 23; he has an autographed copy of the book for you. Call him at 928-699-2367 for place and time.

Monday, October 06, 2008

El Camino: Stories from the Ancient Path

There are many stories from the ancient path as yet untold. So although Burgos is the "fin de" my pilgrimage, please keep coming back to this blog for the telling of those adventures. Hoping to stay in touch with my Camino friends who continue on ahead of me to Santiago de Compostela, I will keep you updated on their journeys.

Thanks to my friends, family and church family at Trinity Heights United Methodist Church in Flagstaff, AZ for your prayer support. Several times I felt especially uplifted by your prayers. Today is Sunday and I miss worshiping the Lord with you. I attended the 9 am Mass at the glorious Cathedral of Burgos. Today's Mass was in Spanish which was easier to follow than the last Mass I attended -- which was disappointingly officiated in Latin. The priest shook hands with parishioners as he left the front of the church. When he got to my pew, he shook my hand and said "Buon Camino." So even though I put on my best pilgrim clothes for church, I still look like a pelegrina (Spanish for pilgrim, feminine form.)

I looked forward to participating in Taize worship services along the Way of St. James, but the only thing close was an impromptu morning service. It was informally conducted by eight German pilgrims in an ancient monastery outside of Estella. The six Norwegian ladies were in the soaring stone sanctuary, too. We all knew a couple of the Taize songs and sang along with the Deutschers, our voices magnified by the perfect acoustics.

If you're not familiar with Taize, I recommend that you Google the religious practice. Its interesting history starts with Catholic brothers hiding Jews during WWII in Taize, France. An internationally blended form of worship, Taize uses the light of candles and the sweet harmonies of the human voice in different languages along with the guitar. It is very popular with the youth (and youthful) of Europe.

Tomorrow I travel to Madrid. The bus service is cheaper, has more frequent departures and gets me to Madrid faster than the train, so I've decided to take the bus. I haven't found a place to stay in Madrid, but I'm headed to one of the main, if not most touristy plazas, Plaza Sol. I should be able to find something there.

I spend one quick night, and then the next day, I take the Metro to the airport for my 11am flight.

Friday, October 03, 2008

El Camino - Atapuerca Friday, October 03, 2008

"Do you have a husband?" I asked the perky pilgrim who used an umbrella for a hiking stick as we walked.
"Yes, but he has a health problem that would make him uncomfortable to walk El Camino."
"My husband doesn't have the interest to walk El Camino."
"Well, it's not a thing done lightly, is it?" says Anne in a deep but sweet Scottish accent.
"You really must want to do it, to be able to do it."
The El Camino is challenging. Not only the walking and the carting of a heavy load, but also sometimes the monotony of step after step. But that monotony brings you an appreciation of the present moment. Of the little things that surround you. The proverbial "Stop and smell the roses." But it is fall and the roses are all but gone, but left behind are large and brilliant red rose hips springing like berries from human-sized bushes.
"Every once in a while I am hit with a moment of thankfulness. Like when I see the sun shining on that ancient bell tower in the village ahead of us there. You know what I mean, Stacey?" asks Anne. We have been walking since Villafranca, first up a very steep four km stretch. "I would not like to bicycle this," tsck-tscks Jacques.

The small things like not being hungry enough to eat the whole apple, but being able to share it with a fellow pilgrim. Jacques came in behind us to the small bar at San Juan de Ortega. He had stopped to layer up as we strode into the cold, fall wind. "I about froze out there," I said being thankful for the small wood stove smoking in the corner."Probably not good for the health,' said Anne, "But it smells good anyway" about the wood fire. We waved to our Camino friends Juliana and her parents from Maryland, as we wiggled up to the bar to order our café con leche.

I sat down next to a new pilgrim. "Where are you from?" I asked, breaking my El Camino rule of first asking for a name before anything else. I think I was just too tired, or maybe I am softening to my self-imposed Camino etiquette.
"Ottawa," he said.
"We have not met yet," I said sticking out my gloved hand, "I am Stacey from Arizona." "I am Andrew." I sat down and started to cut apart a huge orange with my small Swiss Army knife.
"That is the smallest knife I have ever seen," said Andrew. "They let you carry that on?" he asked meaning the Airport Security officials.
"Oh, no. This was in checked baggage," I said. "I have enough of these little ones taken from me by airport security. I forget I have them in a small backpack, but the X-ray machine always makes me remember." I gave Anne a quarter of the dripping orange and offered another to Andrew.
"No thank you," he passed, "I have already had two bananas this morning." I cut my banana into three pieces and laid one at Jacques' spot at the table.
"I have this map I printed off the Internet. It is not bad, but it is Spanish. It shows three routes from here; do you know which one is best for walking?"
I looked at his map. "I think you should ask Jacque. He did reconnaissance on this route last summer and he knows the way well. He can help you. He is a coronel in the French Army." Jacques came in with a hot chocolate.
"Café con leche is not the only thing that they make here," he stated.
"This is for you," I said pushing his quarter of orange to his banana. "Oh banana!" I have not had a banana in a long time. I used to have a banana tree in my garden in Africa."
"Garden in Africa? Where were you in Africa?" exclaimed the Canadian.
"I was in Zaire, the French Congo area for several years."
"Yes, Gabon, too. It was very beautiful there."
"I always wanted to go to Gabon but never got there. I was in Zimbabwe."
"What were you doing there?" I asked hoping for a missionary story.
"Teaching. I was teaching,"
"And what were you teaching?" I asked digging further.
"I was teaching teachers to teach." He paused, "I was teaching those who wanted to teach teach." I found it very interesting how he rephrased it into those who wanted to teach. In Africa it is better to explain exactly, and it sounded like that was what he was doing with me now. Then Anne asked me a question and the conversation about Africa spun on between the men.

Later as we walked, Jacques said, "The bad thing about having a banana tree in your garden is that there are huge snakes that look exactly like banana trees. They are very big, and very dangerous. They strike fast -- like an arrow. They are very poisonous. You are dead in one hour."
"Did you ever see one?"
"Oh, yes but they were very difficult to see because they look exacament like the tree."
"So what did you do? Did you get a big stick? Or did you send one of your servants out to get him?"
"One time there was a very loud noise on the roof. It was a mamba noire - black mamba - four meters long. They are very dangerous, too." He said. Jacque has an interesting way of avoiding the question and continuing his story from wherever it takes him. I think it is the language barrier. I think he can speak English better than he can hear it. But that could be true for his native tonung as well. Being a male creature and all.
"The very educated man, a doctor, from next door started calling, 'Coronel! Coronel! You must get your gun and come kill this snake.'
"I had a cache of weapons in my home, but it was only grenades and a machine gun. If I started shooting a machine gun, it would start all kinds of problems,
So we got many people to surround the house and make a noise to keep the snake where he was. I ran down to get a gun. I told the man, I need a rifle!" He said what for. . There was quite a ruckus.
”I came back with the rifle and climbed up the ladder to the roof. I took careful aim, like this," Jacques mimicked the gun with his hiking stick, "and killed the snake with one shot." Or maybe it was two with the way he mimed the hunting adventure.
"In the meantime the local army had been notified and they came in their riot gear. They saw the dead snake and started firing upon it for 10 minutes straight.
"The whole time my wife was inside taking pictures through the windows."


Last night, trying to fall asleep under the huge Korean, I thought of the first line of my book. 'I slept under the huge Korean tonight.' It always seems like a much better idea when you are half asleep. But as I examined the bulging springs of the bunk overhead it seemed like a good idea. I was actually afraid that the bed was going to come crashing down across my neck. I would be screaming and trying to make one last great effort to heave the bunk and the Korean tonnage from my windpipe. The German men who skoff at me carrying my computer, "Such an American!" would come running to help and be impressed as I benchlift the weight above me. "Strong Woman" would be my final words and as I began to write the newspaper headline, Arizona Pilgrim Finds Peace in Tragic Alburgue Accident, I somehow fall asleep.

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