Graduation, Pilgrimage, Reunion

C.S. Boyll on graduation day, with parents Ben and Rosalie. The author is thankful they provided an opportunity they didn't have.
C.S. Boyll on TCU graduation day, with parents Ben and Rosalie. The author is grateful they provided an opportunity that they did not get to experience.

I am off on pilgrimage to a Texas Christian University reunion with friends I haven’t seen for decades. We were a tight group, who obviously had something special (since we’re spending time and money for this reunion). But some of us have had difficulty keeping connected–even Christmas cards fell away with best intentions. Now is an opportunity to get reacquainted in a fresh way–remembering, and sharing celebratory moments and battle scars.

Thinking of life as pilgrimage has been a constant for me. It still amazes how God teaches us with a rhythm of heartbeats and breaths, under sunrises and sunsets. One day at a time is plenty with its concerns, said Jesus in Matthew 6:34.

Below is a freshened excerpt of a former “There’s a Blog in My Eye post.” It is what I am thinking about while reflecting on TCU graduation, this reunion, and daily pilgrimage.

Imagine a California traveler journeying down a rocky path in the 1700s. It is the rainy season. He is cold and wet, hungry and thirsty, riding his mule for hours. Suddenly, in the darkness, he sees some flickering lights and hurries toward them. He knocks on the large mission door and is welcomed inside. Here is a place to rest, eat and drink, find encouragement and information–until he must travel again. The Camino de Real or King’s Highway was a pathway along the California coastline which connected some 21 missions for weary travelers. Each mission was a day’s journey of 30 miles from each other.  One can still visit many of these missions that stretch from San Diego to San Francisco.

Mission at Carmel's garden courtyard
Mission at Carmel, California (photo by CSB)

With a little faith we can stretch the Camino de Real into a metaphor for our life journeys. We’re on God’s road; his time table. The journey sometimes is easy with joy, but often difficult with tears. We press on.

I once heard poet Luci Shaw use the Camino de Real as a symbol for journaling. She suggested that daily, reflective writing can be mission respite from our work. It can refresh, encourage, and reveal insights we do not understand until we write them down. I have found this helpful, but journaling isn’t for every one. We each must discover what aids us best in traveling.

Recently, I discovered blogger D.L. Mayfield, a young woman who struggles with her vocation. Mayfield writes that she didn’t feel “called” to minister to the poor as much as she felt dragged. I appreciate her honest writing. She admits that she

D. L. Mayfield
Writer D.L. Mayfield

often feels helpless and overwhelmed by the hurts of others. She wonders if making Funfetti cakes for sad neighbors really is meaningful. But then she writes:

“…I feel like God said: you keep baking cakes. Some of the most unrecognized ministries are my favorites. Like, the ministry of playing yu-gi-oh cards with awkward adolescent boys. The ministry of bringing white styrofoam containers of Pad Thai to people whose baby is very, very sick. The ministry of picking up empty chip wrappers at the park. The ministry of sending postcards. The ministry of sitting in silence with someone in the psych ward. The ministry of gardening flowers….The ministry of noticing beauty everywhere–in fabrics, in people, in art–and in the wilderness.

“The older I get, I realize now that the ministries I once thought so trivial I now think are the most radical. I spent the last year being stripped of anything that would make me feel lovely to God, and I came out a different person. Because I discovered that he always loved me anyways. I’m not Joan of Arc, it turns out. I’m just somebody who likes to bake cakes.”

That’s D.L. Mayfield. With her I relate to small tasks transforming the trivial to the radical. Water turns into wine. Our work, our life journeys, the very essence of ourselves, matter to the One who keeps us. And if we believe this, our best works are done in response to the love that does not fail. In faith, and not alone, we keep traveling.

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For a good armchair pilgrimage find the award-winning 2010 DVD The Way with Martin Sheen. The movie is about a grieving father embarking on the historical pilgrimage “The Way of St. James” in Spain.

Martin Sheen walks with walking stick and back pack against rolling, green hills and distant hazy mountains.
Martin Sheen does pilgrimage in The Way.

You can check out D.L. Mayfield at www.dlmayfield.com . Her new book of essays Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith is scheduled for release in August from HarperOne.

 

 

 

A Lighthouse at Festival of Faith and Writing

I am thinking about windmills and lighthouses, after attending the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College, Grand Rapids. FFW is a bi-annual, three-day April conference where 2000 writers, editors, and readers descend on campus to hear speakers intertwine their faith with their writing under an interfaith flag.

The Festival offers a buffet for the bibliophile. Speakers include children writers, theologians, journalists, young adult writers, memoirists, novelists, poets, editors—you get the picture. At such a buffet, one cannot eat it all, but one surely tries. In another blog or two I will share more about FFW’s speakers and their writings. But for now I want to write about one attendee I sat with in two keynote sessions.

Spanish rust-colored stone windmill with six black, metal arms and a red cone top sets in middle of photo with a blue sky behind it.Kelli is a whirling windmill, a handicapped, young woman who walks with two propelling crutches, carrying a heavy backpack. She is looking for a place to sit in an auditorium of bleachers and stadium chairs. I smile; she glows. I beckon; she whirls into a seat.

Kelli and I keep smiling through introductions and shuffle our bodies as people climb over us for middle seats.  Because it is a little difficult to understand her voice, I have to ask again, “I am sorry. Where are you from?”  It’s awkward; I mean her no disrespect. She keeps smiling. Actually, I swear this blonde-haired woman, wearing glasses and a pink sweater, glows with joy. When she says she is from Idaho, I respond, “Ah, there are good writers from Idaho,” thinking of the state’s renowned writing program. She enthusiastically agrees.

There isn’t much time to talk before writer Tobias Wolff takes the stage for a noon session on “Some Doubts About Certainty.” It’s comforting to sit next to Kelli and writing friend Linda. I sense we are kindred souls, lovers of well-crafted

Tobias Wolff wears a navy blue shirt. He is looking to the left with an open, attentive expression. He is bald on top, with white hair on the side of his head and a thick, manicured white mustache. He sports wire-rimmed glasses.
Tobias Wolff

words strung together in sentences, paragraphs, and books. I have this desire and curiosity to read what Kelli writes when her voice is freer to soar via a keyboard. Tobias Wolff gives a good talk and reads a profoundly well-crafted short story about a suppressed professor, who in a defiant way, finds her voice.

After the applause, Kelli and I agree it is great to be at Festival of Faith and Writing. She gets up from her seat in staccato jolts and is off for an afternoon loaded with workshops and seminars.

Zadie Smith is of African descent with light, brown skin, an oval face, dark and kind black eyes, manicured eyebrows, and closed smiling lips. She looks directly into the camera, wearing a red head scarf and a black shirt.
Zadie Smith

At 7:30 pm, back in the auditorium, it’s time to hear novelist Zadie Smith. Linda and I head to the same section and find glowing Kelli, already seated. We join her and listen to Zadie’s talk, “What is the purpose of writing ‘creatively’?” It has been a long day, and Zadie crams the brain. Now my uppermost thought is bed.

Kelli struggles to get up. A man hands her the stuffed backpack. Then, she stumbles down two steps and topples half over with her crutches barely keeping her up. I mentally freeze. How to assist this Festival of Faith and Writing sister?IMG_2595

Several of us ask, “Can we help? Are you alright, sweetie?”

“No, I’m fine,” she says with that smile, now strained a little.  She clumsily adjusts backpack and crutches and says to me, “I’m just really tired; I’ve been up since 2 a.m.”

I’m alarmed. Yet, I must respect her decline for help.  I realize Kelli is used to having only herself to rely on. Maybe she prefers that independent, risky freedom. But maybe I should know how to help her better.

“Be careful,” the mother-in-me says. It’s all I can muster.

Kelli gives a tired smile, sets a determined face, and whirls into the crowd, among several stares.

Sadly, I did not catch Kelli’s last name nor ask for her email address. And, I did not see her again during the festival.

Now I am home. After all the riches at Festival of Faith and Writing–all those brainy ideas, quotes, and books–I am thinking of Kelli, and here’s the reason: Kelli is no windmill. She’s a lighthouse. And somehow I missed receiving more of her light.The beacon light on this red and white lighthouse is extremely bright and glowing against a dark sky that is passing from dusk to night.

Top 10 Reasons God Is the Number One Writer

Have you ever meditated on the many biblical names God is called? Most Jesus followers have their favorites like “Lord,” “Shepherd,” “The Rock,” “The Great I Am,” “Redeemer,” “Prince of Peace,” etc. It is a worthy exercise to write down as many titles as you can and then keep adding to your list.  In my work as a writer I have realized the validity of “God, The Writer.”

The middle section of three panels at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Columbia, Missouri, depicting Moses receiving the 10 Commandments.
The middle section of three panels at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Columbia, Missouri

Here are my Top Ten Reasons to call God “The Number One Writer.”

NUMBER 10: God shows a flashy style when he pens the Ten Commandments on Moses’ tablets (Deut. 10:4, Ex. 19).

NUMBER 9: He offers even more dramatic flair in Daniel 5, when human fingers supernaturally write on the wall of drunken King Belshazzar’s palace: “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin” (translation: I have numbered your kingdom and put an end to it).The Drunken King Is in Shock.

NUMBER 8: Throughout scripture God has his prophets write for him. For example, he tells Isaiah, “Go now, write it on a tablet for them…that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness” (Is. 30:8). In Revelation 21:5 he declares: “I am making everything new!” Then he says, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

NUMBER 7: Created in his image we are expected to nurture at least one writing method he displays. Proverbs 3:3 commands: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

NUMBER 6: When New Testament Pharisees bring an adulterer to Jesus for judgment, he stoops down twice to write on the ground with his finger (John 8:6-8). Songwriter Michael Card has written a song and entire book about this creative communication.IMG_2078

NUMBER 5: God actively writes moral consciousness into our beings. He declares, “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds” (Heb. 10:16).IMG_2074

NUMBER 4: Even better, he is the “Author and Perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).

NUMBER 3: His Bible has been the number one bestseller for centuries. Who can surpass such royalties!

NUMBER 2: He has tattooed our existence into his eternal, resurrected self: “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me” (Isaiah 49:16).

NUMBER 1: And the Number One reason God should be called “The Number One Writer” is that at some future date he will give us new by-lines. Revelation 2:17 promises, “To the one who overcomes, I will give…a white stone with a new name written on it.”

A white stone shaped like a heart