Our bloggers are reflecting on travel, and the baggage we carry, this week. They are our tour guides into new spiritual territory.
Beginning with the intriguing lament, “I have always wanted to be a tiny-purse carrier,” Melissa Bane Sevier reflects on what we carry around, and Jesus’ instructions to his disciples not to carry a bag, but to rely on the people they meet. Looking to others, instead of living in completely prepared isolation, we learn more about other people. She imagines Jesus saying, “Write this down.” You won’t need all that stuff, “I’m trying to teach you something.”
Being in exile can be a spiritual journey, suggests Kristin Berkey Abbott, posing the question of whether exile has its blessings, too. We would rather stay home, or go somewhere familiar, but “what if this feeling of exile is the norm? Or what if it’s actually a preferable state? After all, when we’re in a state of exile, we remember our true home (God or Heaven or something better, if you’re not inclined to use religious terms).” There are spiritual gifts for us in this season of exile, she says. “If we’re in exile, we don’t need to hoard anything. We might as well use it.”
Traveling as far as a garden, Michelle Francl-Donnay recalls the bare sticks of a hyacinth plant, remembering a friend who has died. When the plant blooms unexpectedly, she wonders what her friend would have thought about the change from seemingly dead plant to lush blooms. “He would say it is chance to taste loss, to know what will be asked of us in those last years, or hours of our life. He would say there is always hope, even when we don’t notice it, or expect it.”
With a journey back in time, Jeffery Nelson offers advice from the future to his younger self on his wedding day. Thinking about what the young groom needed to know, he begins with “You’re going to be broke for a while. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by telling you this. You’re a seminary student, she doesn’t even have a job yet. And I know that you have visions in your head of living some kind of romantic hipster lifestyle in your little apartment where you’re both going to be students cooking cute little trendy dishes for each other. Let’s just say it’s going to be more complicated than that.”
Traveling inward for a look at her own spirit, in a week of more gun violence, Beth Richardson says:
“Each day I see the legacy of hatred
Written across my screen,
Displayed in videos.
It enters my car in voices on the radio.
Fists raised in anger.
Dueling pundits on cable TV.
The latest shooting.
Marching crowds and candlelit vigils.
Mothers weeping over children, slain.
I confess …
This legacy of hatred lives in me.
It flares out in traffic jams
And simmers inside my clenched jaws.
It plays out in my heart and mind
In unspoken judgments and harsh criticisms.
How did you learn to love?
How did you learn to let go of
Holy One, you said that I should love my enemies
And pray for those who persecute me.
Have mercy on me, Gentle One,
For I don’t know how to love.”
Where are you traveling in spirit or body this week? What thoughts, questions or longings are accompanying you? What things – wanted or unwanted – do you find yourself carrying with you? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Mary Austin is the pastor of Westminster Church of Detroit, a diverse Presbyterian church. She is currently traveling with her daughter, niece and nephew, which has her reflecting on how many shoes people really need for a short trip. She blogs from time to time at Stained Glass in the City.
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