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The First Shift in Becoming a Pilgrim

The irony of this topic is that my current job is in the tourism industry. My objective is to convince you to come to our town, have fun, spend money, go home, tell your friends, come back, repeat. No doubt that is a bit of an over-simplification but it is the general outline as I understand it.

Have you ever come home from a vacation and needed another vacation to rest up from the first one? I sure have. That’s because being a tourist…seeking entertainment, experiences, and adventures as ends in themselves can be exhausting. I remember when my kids were little the most common question on vacation was, “What are we doing after this, dad?”

Imagine living your entire life as a tourist swept up in the frantic pace of “what’s next?” Many people do. Maybe you are.

Even church, religion, spirituality, or whatever you prefer to call it, can become a flurry of activity. Following Jesus in America begins to look a lot like the objective of the tourism industry; come, engage, give money, go home, tell your friends, come back, repeat. And that drags with it the notion, “If I’m doing more, I must certainly be doing better.”

Not necessarily.

David wrote:
“Doing something for you, bringing something to you – that’s not what you’re after. Being religious, acting pious – that’s not what you’re asking for. You’ve opened my ears so I can listen.” Psalm 40:6 The Message

Becoming a pilgrim in a culture of tourism requires listening.

How are you doing with that?

Many people are too busy to really listen to the person right in front of them let alone hear the still small voice of God. Psalm 40 is a pilgrim’s confession, and key for us if we want to take a step in moving from tourist to pilgrim. It is a move from activity to contemplation, from distraction to attention. A needful shift that will help you harness activity until it flows out of a full and listening heart.

So how can I do that?

Becoming an everyday pilgrim is an active fight against the question, “What’s next?” and the ongoing embrace of the question, “What are You trying to show me, right here, right now?” It is about slowing down, quieting yourself, and paying attention.

Here’s one practical suggestion that will help you become more attentive.

  • Quiet yourself. (This can be done seated at home or even while you walk.) Start by breathing for 30-60 seconds, paying attention to your inhale and exhale.
  • Then ask the Holy Spirit to bring to the surface a word or phrase from scripture.
    – I usually do this after I read a passage in the morning.
  • When you have it, take time to repeat it timing it with your breath.
    For example:
    “Love is patient, love is kind.” Inhale “love is patient” and then exhale “love is kind.”
    Another that I’ve often used is, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.”
  • Other things will pop into your mind like your to-do list, something that happened yesterday, a question you have about work, but push those thoughts aside and return to your word or phrase.
  • Spend about 10 minutes breathing and reciting it, allowing it to have a centering effect on you.
  • As you go about your day, return to it often. Let it tumble around and explore how it is intersecting your life right here, right now. How am I treating others in light of it? How am I treating myself in light of it? What truth am I embracing because of that? What lies are being dispelled?

The great misconception is that spiritually devoted people are disconnected and seek to live in the bliss of escapism. But in the Christian tradition it is just the opposite. It is learning to pay great attention to the Kingdom that has come in the midst of where we currently live.

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