Instead of my reflections for this week, I want to share the way I led Saturday’s Snowshoe Pilgrimage at Strathcona Park (Mount Washington). This can be a guide (if you so choose) for a self-guided pilgrimage of your own, or just something to contemplate in the week ahead as you move through your tasks.
In the days before we began, I invited participants into some preparatory work:
Take some quiet time in prayer or reflection (I recommend trying to use a journal to help stay focused) to consider a few things:
What is drawing you to this experience?
What are you hoping to learn or hear?
What kind of posture or attitude would you like to bring to the journey?
As you live through the coming hours, can you attune your ears and eyes more carefully to that which surrounds you in the busy-ness of your day to day living? Can you re-notice something that has become everyday or mundane for it’s awe-someness?
Consider what it means to you to enter into liminal space – the space that is between what you know and what you are seeking. This place of wide mystery is one that is often uncomfortable – but it is in our discomfort that we can become open to a voice from a power greater than ourselves.
Once we arrived, got all of our gear, and made our way across the snow at the start of the trail, we stopped - as we did at various points through the journey - to listen and consider. Much of our time crunching across the snow was in quiet, personal reflection.
Here are the words from each of our stops, please use them as you please.
Land Acknowledgement: the land on which we stand, the land that we work and play on, is the traditional and unceded territory of the K’omoks First Nation - we thank them for their generosity and wish them well in their ongoing treaty negotiations.
Prayer Poem by Julia Cameron: “I Am in the Centre of God’s Love”
The heart of God knows no distance. I am held and cherished in the heart of God. I am safe, protected, and companioned at all times. There is no place or circumstance in which I am alone, without divine company and counsel. In times of loneliness I remind myself that God infuses all things: the chair, the table, the rug, the flower. Divinity flowers through all life and is all life. My fingertips contain God. God is at my fingertips at all times. When I feel loneliness, fatigue, or despair, I comfort myself by knowing I am contained within the heart of God and if I will only look for God within my own heart, I will find both of us there.
First Phase of our Journey is “Here I Am”
In the ancient Hebrew story of Moses and the burning bush, Moses is up Mount Horeb and God calls out to him, and his response is “Here I am”. I believe that God – that pulse of love that radiates in and through all things – is always yearning to be with us, is always calling our name, drawing us in. In the silence along the path that follows, I invite you to listen for the ways the Divine is calling you – YOU – and how you can say, “Here I Am” in this journey, but also beyond this time.
Second phase of our Journey is “You are standing on Holy Ground”
In the story up on Mount Horeb (or translated, the Mountain of God), once Moses says, “Here I Am” God reminds him that he is standing on Holy Ground. And we encounter mystics and prophets who seek God on the Mountaintop, not only in Judaism but also in Christianity, Islam, and so many expressions of religious and spiritual belief over centuries and across geography. The mountain has been a thin place for humans for centuries: a place of stripping away daily tasks and entering into a place of intentional seeking. In the silence that follows as we continue along this path, I will invite you to allow yourself to slip into a place of awe for the beauty that surrounds us. See how many of your senses you can allow to awaken you to that place of gratitude for this truly holy ground.
Third Phase of our Journey is “Go”
Continuing the story, God has a job for Moses, some important work to do. Like most ancients who receive messages from God, Moses is like, no way Jose. Truthfully, this is typically my first response too – great idea God, but I think you’ve got the wrong person over here.
But God persists, reminding him (reminding me, reminding you) that nothing we is called to do we will have to do alone.
As we move through the next phase of our pilgrimage, consider the message that God is calling on you to do next. Listen. Expect to hear. You may be surprised by what you hear. What is your response? If what you are hearing is not what you want to be hearing, can you adjust it? Can you respond with openness? Can you be afraid and accept it anyway?
The Final phase is “Action”
Moses (finally) puts his calling into action and fights against the oppressive leaders of his time. In my tradition, the Christian tradition, there are ancient stories of regular (mostly quite un-remarkable) people encountering God in some way – today we call these “White light” or “Mountaintop experiences”. What my tradition emphasizes is that these God-encounters are for anyone and available to everyone (not just mystics and saints) and that the importance of them lies not in the experience itself, but in what they do to us, what they prepare for us, what they call or commission us to do. This is not about wallowing self-indulgently in joyful feelings of the presence of God (though God knows we could likely all use more times of assurance of that presence) or simply trying to recreate those moments of connection, but it is a calling forward in love. These experiences will open up a new way forward that will likely challenge us. That is to say, these are not given simply so that we may enjoy them for their own sake (or our own sake), celebrated or clung to – these experiences are not for the “I” - they will always have an element of “so now…”
In these last steps we take together, it is time to reflect on the “what next” – not to let this day of beauty remain here on the mountain, but rather how you can bring it down into the valley and allow it to shape the days and weeks to come. What Pharoahs do you need to stand up to in your life? What injustice needs your voice? Who could benefit from your time here?
Before we complete the journey, I want to share one short piece of a poem with you.
Poet, Mary Oliver, who died recently, is a favourite of mine - one of her most quoted quotes is a piece of advice is taken from her poem, “Sometimes.”
Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.
As you go from this place know that you are held in love, filled with love, and send into the world to share that love. Trust in it. Amen.