It was a beautiful day. The sun angled her morning light—trees casting shadows across the new fallen snow. The temperature had risen to a balmy 25 degrees—a veritable heat wave! More birdsongs drifted over the unmarked snow.

My heart was here—present—slave to the moment—absorbed. My soul sang with joy at the world of wonder that enveloped me.

And then I notice something. The picnic tables, snow laden and waiting, seemed to huddle together as if they were talking. They seemed to be in a winter convention, telling stories of better, less lonely days. They were remembering butts sitting on their benches, elbows leaning on their tops, chicken-fry crumbs staining their wood. 

And they seemed anxious for warmer days when snow would disappear and children would play around their legs while adults sat and spun stories into the air. They longed for the crowds of people, all nationalities, coming to share food and fun in the open spaces.

How is it that I created this fantasy? After all, I was so connected to the icy moment of sun and snow. Joy in the morning light had so overwhelmed me and here I was creating a table convention about warmer weather.

I think we are such complex and interesting creatures. We can celebrate the present with complete absorption—fully present to the world as it is—and at the same time lean into longing for a day that lies un-lived before us. At the same time winter wows us spring seduces us.

What an amazing thing to live this human journey!


I put the trash out last night. Rather a ritual each Sunday evening. It seems like I just did it yesterday, but somewhere while I wasn't looking, the week passed by. There are moments like this when it dawns on me that life has been lived and I didn't even notice it. We journey through each day, each week, each month, living life as normal as we can make it.

But, sometimes something happens to cause us to wake up and notice our journey. It is often when we lose something or when we feel what is normal for us is threatened. Our senses stand on tip-toe and we are alert to the healing gifts of grace or the painful gifts of fear. We notice each moment. It becomes a vivid tattoo on our memories. This is when we know our daily journey has turned into a spiritual pilgrimages. 

Pilgrimages begin when our longings are intensified. We long for something that we don't have. We long for something more. And that longing gets formed into a decision.  We decide that we are going to act, to do something that leads to exploring our longing. Pilgrimages then become a reality when we leave home (or when home leaves us). Home is where the time slides by on the familiar patterns of familiarity. When we leave home, we are uncertain what is around the next corner, so our senses are heightened.  We notice. We pay attention to our life.

Some pilgrimages are chosen. They begin when we decide to make a change. Some are foisted upon us by circumstances in our life that we can't control. They begin beside a fresh grave.  Either way, they are spans of time in our journey of life when our eyes are opened to reality, when our heart feels more deeply, our souls expand in songs of lament or ecstasy, and our bodies are alive to the touch of earth. Don't let these moments go by without discovering greater insights into  yourself and your relationship to the mystery of life itself. Soon enough the familiar will seduce you back into familiar days that seem to go by way too fast.


[This post is the third in a series of devotions on forgiveness that I first published last year in a leaders’ devotional book, "Disciplines 2013" from The Upper Room. This is based on a reading found in Luke 15:20-21 and Psalm 32:3-5]

In the midst of conflict between family members, the changes that offend and alienate, and the losses of innocence and identity that result from those things, certain longings and actions follow.  The son who had left home, insulted his father and spoiled the family plans for the future, came to his senses.  He discovered that his longing for an independent and individualistic future was not as powerful as his longing for home and relationships with those who love and sustain.  In the absence of home, he discovered a hope for home.

Out of his loss and emptiness, he went to his father and confessed that he had made a mistake. He named the losses that he and his family suffered. In humility he realized that he could not come back into the family as he was.  He was not worthy.

But in confessing, an interesting thing occurred.  He discovered that the onerous burden that he and his family experienced was lifted. His father had been holding in his heart a pool of grace for his son. The family would never be the same.  The future would always be shaped by the experiences of the past.  He was welcomed back as a son, but no one would be the same.  Grace and forgiveness does not restore life as it was. It simply reconnects the wounded and scarred so that there is a chance to build something new.  

God’s agenda is a future where shalom is a reality.  His desire is for communities to be free from the power of the past to control their future so that the future might be rebuilt out of the scattered stones of separation and alienation.  Psalmists sing of the burden that is lifted when the heart confesses.  How have you contributed to God’s agenda in creating a heart of grace that reformation might take place?

Grant us the courage to confess, O God, and open ourselves to reconnection.