Tag Archives: traveling

Eternal Father, strong to save

Eternal Father, strong to save,
whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.

O Christ, whose voice the waters heard
and hushed their raging at thy word,
who walkedst on the foaming deep,
and calm amid the storm didst sleep;
O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.

Most Holy Spirit, who didst brood
upon the chaos dark and rude,
and bid its angry tumult cease,
and give, for wild confusion, peace:
O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.

O Trinity of love and power,
our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
from rock and tempest, fire and foe,
protect them wheresoe’er they go;
thus evermore shall rise to thee
glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Words: William Whiting, 1860; as revised in Hymns Ancient and Modern, 1861;
Tune: Melita

From the album Favourite Hymns from Westminster Abbey, sung by the Westminster Abbey Choir.

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Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer

This is another one of my favorite hymns, sung to one of my favorite hymn tunes: Cwm Rhondda, a Welsh tune written in 1907. This hymn is also sometimes written as “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.”

Guide me, o thou great Redeemer,
Pilgrim through this Barren Land,
I am weak, but thou art mighty,
Hold me with thy pow’rful Hand;
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
Feed me till I want no more.

Open now the Crystal Fountain
Whence the healing Stream doth flow,
Let the fi’ry cloudy Pillar
Lead me all my Journey through;
Strong Deliv’rer, Strong Deliv’rer,
Be thou still my Strength and Shield.
Be thou still my Strength and Shield.

When I tread the Verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious Fear subside;
Death of Deaths, and Hell’s Destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s Side.
Songs of Praises, Songs of Praises,
I will ever give to Thee.
I will ever give to Thee.

–Words by William Williams (1717-1791), originally written in Welsh as “Arglwydd, arwain trwy’r anialwch”, translated into English by Peter Williams in 1771.
–Tune: Cwm Rhondda by John Hughes (1907)

–This version of the hymn is from the Royal Wedding: Official Album of the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011. Accompaniment by The Choir of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace; Organist: Robert Quinney; Conductor: James O’Donnell.

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Jesus is the Christian Journey Itself

Some Christians think that faith is like a set of MapQuest directions—that there is only a single highway to God. After all, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” He is the map. And Christianity is a kind of vacation destination, a place you wind up in to escape hell. Such Christians claim that God has a plan for your life, a route you must follow or you will be lost in this life—and damned in the next. They even have things like “four spiritual laws” and “forty days of purpose” that tell you how to get there. Like computer-generated directions, this road is predetermined, distant, and authoritative. You cannot exit this freeway or deviate from the route without peril. Taking a creative risk, as I did in my recent journey through Baltimore’s old neighborhoods, will not lead you home. Instead, it leads directly to hell and destruction. Who cares about a few spiritual traffic jams or construction zones? Better stick to the map. Follow the plan.

But what if Jesus is not a MapQuest sort of map, a superhighway to salvation? What if Jesus is more like old-fashioned street signs in a Baltimore neighborhood, navigated by imagination and intuition? Rather than a set of directions to get saved, Jesus is, as his earliest followers claimed, “the Way.” Jesus is not the way we get somewhere. Jesus is the Christian journey itself, a pilgrimage that culminates in the wayfarer’s arrival in God. When Jesus said “Follow me,” he did not say “Follow the map.” Rather, he invited people to follow him, to walk with him on a pilgrimage toward God.

–Excerpt from Christianity for the Rest of Us, by Diana Butler Bass, p. 72.

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Through Painted Deserts: Author’s Note

Though this is not a prayer, this speaks to me in a multitude of ways. This Author’s Note, from the book Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road by Donald Miller, speaks to life, change, the search for God, and also speaks to thirty years of life. It is for this reason I chose to read this with my friends at our celebration of 30 years of life in San Francisco in September 2010. I hope this speaks to you as well. The entire book is pretty amazing, and speaks to the author’s transformation he experienced when he went out on a limb and just…left.

IT IS FALL HERE NOW, MY FAVORITE OF THE FOUR seasons. We get all four here, and they come at us under the doors, in through the windows. One morning you wake and need blankets; you take the fan out of the window to see clouds that mist out by midmorning, only to reveal a naked blue coolness like God yawning.

September is perfect Oregon. The blocks line up like postcards and the rosebuds bloom into themselves like children at bedtime. And in Portland we are proud of our roses; year after year, we are proud of them. When they are done, we sit in the parks and read stories into the air, whispering the gardens to sleep.

I come here, to Palio Coffee, for the big windows. If I sit outside, the sun gets on my computer screen, so I come inside, to this same table, and sit alongside the giant panes of glass. And it is like a movie out there, like a big screen of green, and today there is a man in shepherd’s clothes, a hippie, all dirty, with a downed bike in the circle lawn across the street. He is eating bread from the bakery and drinking from a metal camp cup. He is tapping the cup against his leg, sitting like a monk, all striped in fabric. I wonder if he is happy, his blanket strapped to the rack on his bike, his no home, his no job. I wonder if he has left it all because he hated it or because it hated him. It is true some do not do well with conventional life. They think outside things and can’t make sense of following a line. They see no walls, only doors from open space to open space, and from open space, supposedly, to the mind of God, or at least this is what we hope for them, and what they hopefor themselves.

I remember the sweet sensation of leaving, years ago, some ten now, leaving Texas for who knows where. I could not have known about this beautiful place, the Oregon I have come to love, this city of great people, this smell of coffee and these evergreens reaching up into a mist of sky, these sunsets spilling over the west hills to slide a red glow down the streets of my town.

And I could not have known then that if I had been born here, I would have left here, gone someplace south to deal with horses, to get on some open land where you can see tomorrow’s storm brewing over a high desert. I could not have known then that everybody, every person, has to leave, has to change like seasons; they have to or they die. The seasons remind me that I must keep changing, and I want to change because it is God’s way. All my life I have been changing. I changed from a baby to a child, from soft toys to play daggers. I changed into a teenager to drive a car, into a worker to spend some money. I will change into a husband to love a woman, into a father to love a child, change houses so we are near water, and again so we are near mountains, and again so we are near friends, keep changing with my wife, getting our love so it dies and gets born again and again, like a garden, fed by four seasons, a cycle of change. Everybody has to change, or they expire. Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.

I want to keep my soul fertile for the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently.

Only the good stories have the characters different at the end than they were at the beginning. And the closest thing I can liken life to is a book, the way it stretches out on paper, page after page, as if to trick the mind into thinking it isn’t all happening at once.

Time has pressed you and me into a book, too, this tiny chapter we share together, this vapor of a scene, pulling our seconds into minutes and minutes into hours. Everything we were is no more, and what we will become, will become what was. This is from where story stems, the stuff of its construction lying at our feet like cut strips of philosophy. I sometimes look into the endless heavens, the cosmos of which we can’t find the edge, and ask God what it means. Did You really do all of this to dazzle us? Do You really keep it shifting, rolling round the pinions to stave off boredom? God forbid Your glory would be our distraction. And God forbid we would ignore Your glory.

HERE IS SOMETHING I FOUND TO BE TRUE: YOU DON’T start processing death until you turn thirty. I live in visions, for instance, and they are cast out some fifty years, and just now, just last year I realized my visions were cast too far, they were out beyond my life span. It frightened me to think of it, that I passed up an early marriage or children to write these silly books, that I bought the lie that the academic life had to be separate from relational experience, as though God only wanted us to learn cognitive ideas, as if the heart of a man were only created to resonate with movies. No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath:

I’ll tell you how the sun rose

A ribbon at a time…

It’s a living book, this life; it folds out in a million settings, cast with a billion beautiful characters, and it is almost over for you. It doesn’t matter how old you are; it is coming to a close quickly, and soon the credits will roll and all your friends will fold out of your funeral and drive back to their homes in cold and still and silence. And they will make a fire and pour some wine and think about how you once were . . . and feel a kind of sickness at the idea you never again will be.

So soon you will be in that part of the book where you are holding the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin wisp of the story in your right. You will know by the page count, not by the narrative, that the Author is wrapping things up. You begin to mourn its ending, and want to pace yourself slowly toward its closure, knowing the last lines will speak of something beautiful, of the end of something long and earned, and you hope the thing closes out like last breaths, like whispers about how much and who the characters have come to love, and how authentic the sentiments feel when they have earned a hundred pages of qualification.

And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you:


Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.

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Unnamed, by Thomas Merton

In one sense we are always traveling, and traveling as if we did not know where we were going.
In another sense we have already arrived.
We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of
God in this life, and that is why we are traveling and in darkness. But we already possess him by grace, and therefore, in that sense, we have arrived and are dwelling in the light.
But oh! How far I have to go to find you in Whom I have already arrived!

-From “Dialogues with Silence” Edited by Jonathan Montaldo

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