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MY CAMINO – THY CAMINO – The Walk Before Us – A Step at a Time on the Camino de Santiago
As I mentioned in my last post, I have failed to blog timely about my trip on the Camino de Santiago. I finished the journey when I arrived in Santiago de Compostela after 29 days of walking and hiking. I rested briefly in Santiago and then visited Muxia and the “end of the earth” at Finisterre. I safely returned to Richmond and am back at work.
In my efforts to discuss the “people, places and things” on the Way (“My Camino” posts”) I only got to Day 12. In my efforts to record my reflections along the Way about life past and life future and the “walk before us,” I also have a disappointing record. My WordPress “dashboard” has a number of unfinished posts about My Camino and Thy Camino. Thank you for your interest in this journey. Even though I have returned, I will be finishing by posting many more blog posts about my time on the Camino. They will continue to use the “My Camino” and the “Thy Camino” titles and themes.
Until the end of May my publisher is offering the audio version of The Race Before Us: A Journey of Running & Faith for free. If you’d like a copy, just follow the link below at ChristianAudio. Please share this with anyone else who you think might be interested.
The 10th and 11th days of the Camino was a time of transitions. Leaving vineyards and cornfields, finishing a string of lovely days rolling through beautiful agricultural land punctuated by interesting hilltop villages (most of which towns are over a 1,000 years old and most of which had much larger populations when the Camino was in its original “hayday.”)
In Villafranca Monte de Oca, for example, I had lunch in the courtyard of a former “hospital” (remember, “hospital” means essentially a place for the pilgrims to rest, obtain some basic food and aid, and often, medical care on their way to Santiago), which is now an upscale hotel. The hospital in that town (current population = 147) hosted as many as 18,000 pilgrims there a year in 17th century. A few of the larger villages – like Belorado – have been settled since Roman times and have remarkable traces of a more glorious commercial (the home of a large wool trade fair 500 years ago) and pilgrim history (as many as eight pilgrim hospitals in this town at one time).
The hiking was not dissimilar. 25 to 35 kilometer days. Perfect sunrises. Cool mornings, sunny days and warming in the afternoon. The walking continued to be a mix of level and hill climbing, but distinctive on Day 10 was the long, straight 12k path through the woods between Villafranca to Ages – an area that robbers used to disrupt pilgrim journeys in medieval times.
We also transitioned into a new political subdivision – Entering Castilla y Leon (the largest autonomous region in Spain on the Camino). For the modern pilgrim, this had little notice other than prominent signs otherwise reminding us of that fact. The large city of Burgos also helped to bookmark this transition.
As you might imagine (and as I have discussed briefly before) it’s difficult to approach any larger city without walking through less interesting suburbs and unattractive light industrial areas. Fortunately there is an alternative “river route” that minimizes the unpleasantness and allows one walking the Way of St. James to enter through a green corridor. The city is big enough that there is a sense that you will never get to the center city and it’s magnificent jewel – the Burgos Cathedral. Obviously though I did make it and on Good Friday. With Spanish on holiday for the Easter weekend, the city was quite alive. Not only did I visit the cathedral but there were significant religious processions through the city at different hours.
The theme of transition is complete because as the pilgrim departs Burgos
on its west end he is fairly quickly met by a landscape with a new look and a different feel – a region of Spain called the Meseta.
There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened. – C.S. Lewis
As we mentioned in our last post, The Race Before Us is “going on the road” – actually, going on the “camino” – the Camino de Santiago. Despite the travels and the long walk, Bruce will be blogging here at The Race Before Us under the following, temporary subtitle: MY CAMINO- THY CAMINO: The Camino de Santiago & The Walk Before Us. (More on the title and subtitle soon.) Walking the Camino de Santiago was historically a religious pilgrimage for Christians. Today it remains that for many, but others have different, but often related, motivations. (More on that later also.)
MY CAMINO – THY CAMINO: The Camino de Santiago & The Walk Before Us
My good friend, golfing buddy, and fellow Lutheran John likes to kid me by noting that whenever I teach class at Sunday School I somehow reduce everything to the expression – “My Will or Thy Will.” While it’s far from my idea, there is a reason for the repetition or emphasis. It is a useful quip because it expresses perhaps the most profound truth of the Christian faith. In fact, the ideas embedded in the pithy phrase express both the most central issue in the story of man’s relationship to God and the most imposing barrier to repairing what is wrong with the world. These modest questions then will serve as the basis for the more thoughtful of my blog posts as I wander down the road.
The title for this post, therefore, comes from the C.S. Lewis quotation above from his book The Great Divorce. More on this in a later post, but the concept expressed by the “My Will or Thy Will” quip is that man refuses – that we as human beings refuse – to humble ourselves in obedience to God (to God’s will), but we try to achieve our own salvation by doing everything, as Sinatra sang, his own way (our will).
My Camino – Thy Camino. The Camino de Santiago (or, more precisely, the modern-day “Camino Frances” – the French Way) is a 500-mile walk, so we are not likely to write much about running over the next few weeks, but I will describe the walk itself and the scenes and experiences along the way. The trip will also provide a wonderful opportunity for introspection and for writing on issues of faith. Thus, borrowing a theme from the book, The Race Before Us, during our sojourn in Spain, each post will be either about (i) the physical journey (about the walk itself and the sights along the way – a bit like a travelogue) or (ii) the faith or spiritual aspects of the journey (musings about the big questions of life – origin, meaning, morality & destiny – in the context of a Christian worldview).
To emphasize this plan to alternate between the physical and the spiritual, the travelogue or “physical” posts will be denominated by “My Camino” (such as “My Camino I: Climbing Over the Pyrenees”) and the philosophical or “spiritual” posts will be denominated by “Thy Camino” (such as, “Thy Camino I: Sin, Repentance & Pilgrimage”). And, where I can combine the physical journey with the spiritual journey (where I can, if you will, combine the “walk” with the “talk”), the post will be denominated as “My Camino – Thy Camino.”
DISCLAIMER: You have been warned. If you want to follow the journey, but do not want to be troubled by the more philosophical musings, read the “My Camino” posts as I write about what its like to walk twenty miles in the rain, or cram into a “pilgrim hostel”, or understand where Rioja wine comes from, or visit a 12th century cathedral, or walk through the beauty of spring on the Spanish meseta; and ignore the “Thy Camino” posts as I wonder about things like humility, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, salvation, purpose, and other challenging thoughts. To be clear (if not redundant), unless you are interested in exploring questions of doubt and faith and truth, stay away from “Thy Camino” – or else you may never be the same again. Stated differently, if you have satisfied yourself that God does not exist, you will not want to have your confidence in that conclusion shaken by some of my musings here.
Look for the photograph above as a reminder that the post is about the Camino — about “My Camino – Thy Camino”. I will provide other photographs in the body or at the end of most posts as we progress across northern Spain and head for Santiago and the “end of the earth,”
If you’ve read a post or two here previously you know that I often take disparate observations and see in them some thoughtful or meaningful connection or message. You also know that I usually try to make some connection to The Race Before Us in these posts. So, with that warning, here’s “My Christmas List.”
Sometime this past weekend, after spending most of the prior week in New York City on business, I realized it was time to try to get myself more into the Christmas season. So, I used my iTunes buttons on my cell phone to call up the Christmas “genre” – which gave me a list of my saved “Christmas” songs. (Not to be too cynical, but I do wonder – and worry – how long it will be before our secular society convinces Apple to change the name of the “genre” to “Holiday Songs.”) Probably my favorite (with apologies to Nat King Cole) are a few by Amy Grant, including “Grown-Up Christmas List.” I am really enjoying listening to both classic and modern songs celebrating the season, including of course “Grown-Up Christmas List” (and “chestnuts roasting on an open fire, jack frost nipping at your nose,” formally known as “The Christmas Song”).
Monday I got around to reading a new Religion Today article (from Friday, December 13, 2013) from my new friend Jim Tonkowich. (If you read the “Acknowledgements” in the book, you will see a note of thanks to “Jim Tonkowich,” who helped to edit an early version of the manuscript.) At the end of the article (warning: Jim is a little critical of our America, entitlement culture), Jim presents his own “grown-up” Christmas list (yet, I do not think he had Amy Grant in mind), which is as follows (although I urge you to read the full article):
For Christmas I want virtue, duty, responsibility, commitment, and sacrifice. Don’t you?
And, as connections go, this recalled our discussion at Sunday School the prior week when we investigated the “moral argument” as discussed in The Race Before Us (more about that in another “Doubt, Faith & Truth” post – coming soon), where we asked: “If humans are solely the product of time, matter and chance, from where do we get our sense of altruism and self-sacrifice?” [Jim’s Christmas list also recalls a great book by Os Guinness – A Free People’s Suicide, in which he argues, rather persuasively I might add, that absent a citizenry that is virtuous and willing to constrain itself – values that are derived from belief in God – the American democracy and freedom as we know it will not survive. Dramatic stuff, but worth a ponder – better yet, its not to late to put it on your Christmas list. Come to think of it, its not too late to order The Race Before Us for your friends and families, even if its not on their “list.”]
Here is a portion of “Grown-up Christmas List” (written by David Foster and Linda Thompson-Jenner):
“Grown-Up Christmas List”
Do you remember me, I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies
Well I’m all grown-up now, And still need help somehow
I’m not a child, But my heart still can dream
So here’s my lifelong wish
My grown-up Christmas list
Not for myself, But for a world in need
No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list
Yesterday I did two other things. I sent my law partner (who has a fairly new daughter – his first after two boys) one of my favorite books – Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters (he now agrees, “there’s nothing like daddy’s little girl”). I also sent my family my list of things I wanted for Christmas. My list had 5 items: three “entitlement” times (things for my plans to walk the Camino de Santiago in April), a “date” with my wife, and “schedule our dad-daughter weekends.”
Richmond Times Dispatch| Posted: Sunday, November 10, 2013
By William C. Mims – Special correspondent
Richmond Times Dispatch – Posted: Saturday, November 16, 2013
By Bruce H. Matson
Dr. Mumper confirmed that I was a walking, Type II diabetes time bomb – I was overweight with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. . . . I had a serious and immediate health situation. I had to get going. Winter was upon us, so I went to the YMCA and climbed back on a treadmill.
(excerpt from The Race Before Us: A Journey of Running and Faith)
The quotation above is taken from my book – The Race Before Us: A Journey of Running and Faith. My decision to start running was part of a need to grapple with some health concerns that I was facing as I was about to turn 50 years of age. Like many others who blog on running, faith (or cooking or politics or any other topic), there is typically a desire that others might learn from the experiences and expertise the blogger has gained. That was certainly my motivation in writing a book about my “journey” and as a Christian we might say it is a way to “witness” to others.
I’ve said often about my journey, “if I could do it, anyone could do it”. (With the book release I have been trying to understand and use Twitter. One of my new “Followers” has on her Twitter page almost the same quotation – “If I can run, anyone can run.” Thanks @corinnebaur.) Like Corinne, I believe that. In January of 2007, I could not run even a mile. (If you are one that doesn’t like to know the resolution of a plot before it is revealed – you may want to skip to the next paragraph.) Eleven months later I ran (and completed) the New York City marathon. I will use this blog then to recall much of my adventure in learning to become a runner and trying to complete a 10K and attempting longer distances. I hope that some might be inspired to take that first step, whether it be to begin a walking program or a commitment to run their first 5K.
Because the journey turned into a spiritual quest as well as a physical challenge, blog posts will alternate generally between the running (what I often refer to as “The Run”) and the spiritual (what I often refer to as “The Race”) journey. In fact, a unique feature of my book is that it has two Forewords. Olympic gold medalist in the marathon at the 1968 Munich games, Frank Shorter, wrote “The Run” Foreword, and internationally well-known Christian speaker, author, and apologist, Ravi Zacharias, wrote “The Race” Foreword. In adition to encouraging novice runners, I how Christians seeking to become amateur apologists and others with questions or doubts about the Christian faith will also follow the journey of this blog as it tackles many questions I raised (and most people eventually face) in The Race Before Us.