Posts Tagged spirituality

NEW! – The Race Before Us on YouTube

MY CAMINO – the Video (The Camino de Santiago)

[Editor’s Note: I have still not posted fully the entire trip from southern France to Santiago, Spain, but there is now a video slideshow of the trip.  The slideshow features just 15% of my 2,000 photographs taken over 30 days on the Camino de Santiago.  Accompanied by the music of Steven Curtis Chapman, James Taylor, Alison Krauss and Gordon Lightfoot, the photographs move chronologically until the trip along the Camino ends at the Cathedral de Santiago and at the “end of the earth” at Muxia and Finisterre.]



MY CAMINO - THY CAMINO:  The Camino de Santiago and The Walk Before Us

MY CAMINO – THY CAMINO: The Camino de Santiago and The Walk Before Us

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THY CAMINO: The Walk Before Us

MY CAMINO - THY CAMINO:  The Camino de Santiago and The Walk Before Us

MY CAMINO – THY CAMINO: The Camino de Santiago and The Walk Before Us

NOTE:  Some logistics on the Camino have caused me to get behind. For that I apologize. For those following or checking in, thank you for your interest in my journey.  I hope to post a number of items over the next few days to “catch-up.”  More photographs are available at my Facebook page. Please “friend” me if you’d like to see those and future uploads of photographs (it’s easier to post multiple photos to Facebook).


Well I left my happy home to see what I could find out
I left my folk and friends with the aim to clear my mind out
Well I hit the rowdy road and many kinds I met there
Many stories told me of the way to get there

So on and on I go, the seconds tick the time out
There’s so much left to know, and I’m on the road to find out.

Because this is a “Thy Camino” post, I will share some thoughts about the trip from a spiritual point of view. Although historically people traveling the Camino had essentially only a spiritual or religious reason to do so. I had a number of reasons for undertaking this journey, but for our purposes here, walking the Camino de Santiago might be referred to as The Race Before Us II – hence, “the walk before us.”

The Race Before Us, of course, was my “journey of running and faith.”  The “journey of faith” though, for those not familiar, is a journey TO faith – a journey of understanding and accepting the truth of Christianity.  Those familiar with Paul’s use of the running or “race” metaphor know that the “Christian race” is really a “race” of trying to become more like Christ with each step we take – in that sense, the “race” is our walk with Jesus.  In still other words, it is the process of becoming a disciple – or,  it is the process of sanctification. This process – this effort at attempting to live our lives more and more (with each “step”) is in effect our journey OF faith.  In this very real sense, the “race” is everyone’s race.  We will hear one day – “well done, good and faithful servant”?


For many modern “pilgrims” then the Camino is – as Cat Stevens wrote – the “road to find out” – a journey to learn more about themselves and the big questions of life.  For me, it is an opportunity to focus for a concentrated period of time on the journey OF faith (since my journey TO faith is complete, as recorded in The Race Before Us).

Future posts, therefore, about “Thy Camino” will attempt to make observations on this journey of discipleship – on this walk with Jesus and, hence, on the “walk before us.”

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MY CAMINO: The Way of St. James

MY CAMINO - THY CAMINO:  The Camino de Santiago and The Walk Before Us

MY CAMINO – THY CAMINO: The Camino de Santiago and The Walk Before Us


And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. – Matthew 4:21-22

As briefly mentioned in a previous post, the walk from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago in the northwestern corner of Spain that Dan and I are taking typically is referred to today as the “Camino de Santiago.” More precisely, that route or path that we are taking is referred to as the “Camino Frances” because it is “the way” from France – in fact, using the mountain pass between St. Jean Pied de Port in France and Roncevalles in Spain.

camino” means path or way or road. The word “camino” in Spanish is used to refer to being “on the road” or “along the way” or “on the right track” or “to go down the wrong path.”

Santiago” means or refers to Saint James, one of the first apostles called by Jesus.

Hence, the “Camino de Santiago” is the road to Santiago or “the Way of St. James.”  (Not to mention the  “Chemin to St. Jacques,” which of course is essentially the French translation of “Camino de Santiago.”  Thus, when looking for “the Camino” in St. Jean de Pied de Port -a French town- one needs to kept an eye out for the “Chemin.”)

But perhaps we should pause long enough to ask, who was St. James? Which James? The James of Santiago is the fisherman, son of Zebedee and brother of John. Sometimes this James is referred to as James the Greater. (There is a second, younger “James” who is also a disciple.). Tradition provides that James the Greater preached on the Iberian peninsula. The Bible recounts that this James was martyred at hands of King Herod Agrippa in 42 A.D.

Keep in mind, for purposes of “My Camino – Thy Camino,” James was one of the three disciples that Jesus asked to join him in the garden and who could not stay awake. Of course, it was at this time that Jesus said: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

In modern times, the Way of St. James is a walk or pilgrimage to the cathedral of St. James in Santiago, Spain. Walking the “Camino” recalls a medieval tradition of European Christians that undertook a spiritual journey to the shrine of St. James at the cathedral in Santiago. Walking the “Camino” also retraces the primary route medieval pilgrims took through northern Spain.

The Route of the Camino de Santiago

The Route of the Camino de Santiago

For Dan and me, “our Camino” began in St. Jean Pied de Port, which is the most common starting point today for people wanting to undertake the long walk to Santiago. In the Middle Ages pilgrims could not take planes, trains or automobiles. Thus, a pilgrim’s journey began as they stepped out of their town or village in Germany or Britain or Scandinavia. The routes they took, therefore, were varied and numerous, but they tended to converge at St. Jean Pied de Port because it offered the easiest pass through the Pyrenees and into Spain. From there, peregrines followed a very similar path to Santiago.

Background/History.  Church tradition provides that disciples of St. James brought his body to Galicia and buried them in Compostela (now, Compostela de Santiago) in the 8th or 9th century. Further, St. James is credited with appearing in a vision to help defeat the Moors (name given to Arab and Berber settlers in Spain from Morocco), which gave him one of his names, the “Moor-Slayer.” Pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Rome were popular by the 9th century. The first recorded pilgrimage was a French bishop in 950. King Alfonso VI abolished tolls on the route in 1072. The first church was built in Santiago in 829. The current cathedral was begun in 1075 and completed in 1120s.

The French helped to popularize the Camino for commercial and political reasons. Spanish kings saw the benefit as we’ll and commissioned the building of hospitals, religious houses and institutions along the route. Pilgrimages grew in the 11th century and exploded in the 12th century. Perhaps the most crucial step was late in the 12 century when Pope Alexander III declared Santiago a holy city equal to Jerusalem and Rome, offering a plenary indulgence for making the pilgrimage.

Travel increased. Religious military orders like the Knights Templar arose to protect pilgrims on the Camino. And in the 12th century a French priest produced the Codex Calixtinus, (named after incumbent Pope Calixtus II) which was literally a travel guide – a “Michelin Guide” – for people along the way.  Half a million “peregrines” a year in Middle Ages. Down to 30,000 in 18th century.

Taking a pilgrimage to Santiago  essentially died out in 19th century. The Camino saw a rebirth in 1980s. Parish priest (Don Elias) publishes guidebook in 1982 and is then commissioned to rebuild the Camino in 1985 as new albergues were built, signage improved and an official, modern route was established.  Pope John Paul II visited Santiago in the 1980’s and then UNESCO named the Camino as the “foremost cultural route in Europe.”

Interest in the Way of St. James continued to increase. Americans were better introduced to the Camino in 2010 with the release of the film The Way  starring Martin Sheen.  In 2013, 217,000 people completed at least the final 110 km of the route – the last leg – of the trip to Santiago. (You can also earn La Compostela (the completion certificate) by covering certain lengths of the Camino by horse back or bicycle.)

Day 1 - Bruce on the "Chemin de St. Jacque"

Day 1 – Bruce on the “Chemin de St. Jacque”


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MY CAMINO - THY CAMINO:  The Camino de Santiago and The Walk Before Us

MY CAMINO – THY CAMINO: The Camino de Santiago and The Walk Before Us

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,”

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Faith, Running & Freedom

Editor’s Note:  The Race Before Us, as an organization, seeks to promote both running as a means to physical health, if not renewal and the truth of Christianity as a means to spiritual wellness, if not renewal.  We believe there is a connection between our running and our faith, so we particularly like to feature messages that combine both of these passions.  Today we get to do just that by featuring a guest columnist.

The message below is from a new friend I’ve met through my book (The Race Before Us).  Tom is a Christian who took up running in many ways similar to me – in fact, we “met” when he contacted me to say that he thought he was reading his own story when he read The Race Before Us.

Tom is also “known” as – 278 to Boston”.  Please click here to read more about Tom’s story and follow him as he talks about running and faith and works his way to the Boston Marathon – it’s an inspiring story.  And, please enjoy Tom’s wonderful thoughts below.


It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.    Galatians 5:1

I love running.

Okay, when I am out there and it is really cold or really hot or I just don’t feel good, running can be a chore.

What I love most about running is the freedom that it gives me.  An unexpected consequence of being a runner.

One Saturday a while back, I had a rough day.  In fact it was a difficult week overall, it just came to a head on a Saturday.  I needed to get away.  A couple of years ago that would have entailed driving to Wal-Mart and surrounding stores and walking through the isles of stuff.  Not this time.  Instead, I walked.  In fact I turned off my phone and walked for hours.  I walked on a trail I have run before, but never actually just took the time to look at the surroundings.  It was really cool.  Waterfalls, beaver dams and quietness.

I realized that day that because of my running I could walk as far as I wanted and not worry about how to make it home.  I was able to just go and be free.  It was awesome.

The other time this “consequence of running” occurred to me was while shut in at work for two days because of snow.  I was able to spend hours outside helping people get their cars going.  I walked miles to the pharmacy to pick up meds for a coworker (and buy toothbrushes).  I never once thought, “can I make it back?”  I had freedom.  Who needs a car!

If you are debating whether you should start running or you are a runner and are trying to encourage others to run, remember what I learned.  There is a lot of freedom in life once the chains of poor physical fitness are removed.  Once you run 26.2 miles, it dawns on you that if needed, you can walk the 23 miles home in an emergency.

In many ways, Christ has done the same in my spiritual life.  The verse above talks about the freedom Christ gives.  It seems that many times we need a “revelation” of that freedom, or as Paul says, we can become subject again to the “yoke of slavery”.  It is a very hard thing to see the benefits and freedom we  have as a runner or as a Christian – that is until we experience it first hand.  I never understood fully the benefits or consequences of running until after I became a runner.  I also never understood the blessings and benefits of being a Christian until Christ set me free from the law of sin and death.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Rom 8:2

Freedom.  A basic instinct.  One that I am glad I received almost 2 years ago when I started running and 30 years ago when my life was changed by the Power of God through Christ.  My goal in both areas is to never be subjected to slavery again.

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Doubt, Faith and Truth – Part IV

Just as my fitness had improved—I could run much longer distances now—I agreed with Immanuel Kant’s observation that there were two things we cannot ignore: “the starry skies above and the moral law within.” While the first cause argument (“the starry skies above”) had impeccable logic, the moral lawgiver argument (“the moral law within”) appealed to my more intuitive side. Like adding distance gradually in my running, I was growing in my understanding of the philosophical basis for a belief in God. For my purposes, I was making real progress.  (from The Race Before Us)

Recently, in “Doubt, Faith and Truth – Part III,” we reviewed our discussion of the truth of the resurrection as part of a a Sunday School class I am teaching based upon my book.  Because the book takes a fairly thorough approach of considering many of the traditional arguments for the existence of God and the truth of Christianity, the potential exits to extend the class for many weeks as we try to “knock off” the cosmological argument (“the starry skies above”), the teleological argument, the reliability of scripture, etc.

Just as it was audacious to try to review the proof of the resurrection in a blog post, this post will be equally ridiculous as I try to summarize the “moral argument” in a few hundred words.  Those who have read The Race Before Us may recall that this “argument” probably had the single biggest impact on me.  It is featured in chapter 6 and then revisited in Chapter 16 when I try to tackle head-on the arguments of today’s most prominent atheist, Richard Dawkins.


One way to consider the issues raised by the moral argument is to try to answer the question – “why are we (sometimes) good”?  Recalling that Jesus said “No one is good except God alone,” perhaps this question is posed better – “what causes us to do altruistic acts”?  Many are confounded by the source of “good” acts because, even as Dawkins admits, “natural selection seems ill-suited to explain such goodness as we possess, or our feelings of morality, decency, empathy and pity.” Christians would say that there are certain things that are clearly right and wrong – at all times.  Further, they would say that such an objective standard must be based in something eternal because being based on man or society means it can change with opinion.  In The Race Before Us I captured this idea by concluding, “Absent an unjudged judge or divine arbitrator, any determination of right and wrong results from to the assertion of power by either a majority or a despot.”  

The point then is that when we look at “reasons” for God or “clues” of God, we can look to this moral sense (“the moral law within”).  We can conclude that it is very real and we can conclude that there must be a source for such a standard but be outside of man, which leads us to something (someone) eternal and unchanging – God.  It is one thing to understand and even embrace this rational argument.  yet, that would be, like many things, understanding with the head, but perhaps not with the heart – existentially.  But when we recognize – really understand – that not only is there a moral code (something C.S. Lewis calls the “Law of Human Nature”) and that we do not measure up, we begin to understand with our heart, with our soul.  The idea of God – the idea of a Power beyond ourselves – leaves the abstract or purely intellectual and becomes a real part of our everyday existence.  We sense it, we feel it – we know it.

As usual, few ever capture these ideas as well as C.S. Lewis, who wrote in Mere Christianity:

Christianity tells people to repent and  promises them forgiveness.It therefore has nothing (as far as I know)to sayto people who do not know they havedone anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness.  It is after you have realized that there is a Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power – it is after a lll this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk.

If man is simply the product of time, matter, and chance – and we evolve by natural selection – what explains Mother Teresa, CARITAS or Boaz and Ruth?  Anyway, that was our Sunday School class.  There is a Part V – stay tuned.


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We are not made to be sedentary – physically or spiritually


“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize?  Run so as to win.  Every athlete exercises discipline in every way.  They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.  Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.  No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” ( 1 CORINTHIANS 9:24-27)


The Bible does not state anywhere anything like “Thou shalt exercise or run daily, taking time off on the Sabbath to rejuvenate.”  Yet, what I do know is that God designed our bodies to be physically active, which is why He gave us such a complex human body system that is capable of extraordinary things – a system that only God could create.

Through science and medicine we try to understand, but still it is such a mystery how the twelve major systems of our body work in harmony.   He designed our skeletal and muscular systems, which consists of 206 bones with 230 moveable joints and some 700 named muscles in our body, not to be sedentary, but to be active.   We’ve learned through medicine that the best way to maintain our bodies, God’s body, is through exercise and rest.

We know that exercise, along with eating healthy, is critical to helping us decrease our risks of cardiovascular disease (hypertension, stroke, and heart disease), reducing the risk of some forms of cancer, improving our mood, preserving our cognitive function, helping us sleep better, controlling our weight, and overall, increasing our energy level (as our fitness level increases).  Research confirms that regular exercise prolongs life and diminishes the burden of disability and disease, as we grow older.

So why is this need not clearly highlighted in the Bible?  Why are we not more clearly enjoined to be active physically?  Or are we?

God gave us a body capable of many physical things.  But let’s not forget the mental aspects of our body too.  Like our physiological needs, we must feed our spiritual requirements as well.  We need also to renew our minds.  Paul also tells us:  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV).  Being active spiritually is equally crucial. This is one of the many reasons I teamed with Bruce Matson to help promote health, fitness and Christianity.  Starting this New Year, we will begin a walking and running training program that you can follow at home to help make you more active and fit.   Along with this program we hope to offer some food for thought in your own spiritual journey.


There are many things clearly stated in the Bible but other things are not as clear.  We will see that the Bible provides great lessons and encouragement in both our physical and spiritual journeys.

In the scripture above, Paul is actually emphasizing the spiritual journey – our challenge to know and become more like Christ – by using the more easily grasped illustration of our physical challenges, but also that we do so with purpose and direction (“I do not run aimlessly”) and that the matter of training is of great significance (“I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing”)

So let’s finish up the celebrations of the season over the next few days, and then return next week, prepared to be active physically and spiritually for a fantastic 2014 and beyond.

See you on the roads soon.

Coach Dan

Coach Dan &  Bruce

Coach Dan & Bruce

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