Camino De Santiago ~ Learned Lessons-1

Camino De Santiago ~ Learned Lessons-1

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(Above, descent from the iron cross~ season, late May.)

It has been three months since my return from El Camino. While the time spent there seems so distant, it also seems so near. Perhaps, that too, is a life reflection. As we get older and wiser, it seems that our “childhood days” were just yesterday, when in reality, it is usually much farther away. How can we put the brakes on so that we can enjoy the moment that we are experiencing? One way, is to take “time out”, such as a walk on the Camino de Santiago.

It is long since overdue the areas of wisdom that I learned from my hike on El Camino. Each learning point will have a separate post. In each case, I also preached about the correlation between my own learnings during the journey and the story of the Israelites’ deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Here is the first sermon on lesson’s learned called, “Time Out.”

One of the first things that I relearned is that life is about the journey. So often we are eager to get to the next “thing” in our lives. We are eager to finish this class, we are eager to get our license, we are eager to graduate, we are eager to start our career, we are eager to get married, have kids or retire. How can we simply enjoy the present moment, and the people whom God has placed in our path to enjoy?

In my own life I am constantly on the run. One of the things I have been trying to do in this year is be an “abiding presence” with the people who are around me. I am not always successful, but at least I am trying. El Camino helped me to slow down and enjoy the people around me. The people around me were fascinating and engaging. They came from all over the world. Each life encounter truly was a treasure. For me, I was intentional about the experience of walking the Camino. I did not need to finish, I did not need to be first each day, I was intent on the experience. Not everyone walking felt that way. Some wanted to go as far as they could each day, others wanted to be first. I just wanted to “be.” In fact, I rarely used my I Phone headset as I wanted to hear the sounds of the Camino. You can hear and see a four minute sound byte of the Camino here at this recording I made. (Honestly, the cuckoo bird’s call makes me laugh.)

After my walk, I am more convinced than ever that God wants us to learn lessons on our life journey. God places people in our lives for a season or longer from whom we can learn and whom we can teach. Sometimes they speak life into us, and sometimes we speak life into them. But most of all, it is about how we build those relationship along the journey. El Camino taught me to listen to those around me; taught me that I can learn from them. How are you building the relationships in your life journey that God has put in your path? Are you leaning into them, or are you tearing them down? This applies to all the ones on your journey: There are ones who are hard to love, and there are ones that you would like to spend more time with. Lean into the relationships that God has placed before you. They are part of your learning in your life journey. Before you know it, your life journey will be near its twilight years. What relationships will you have spoken life into during your life journey? It is not too late to begin!

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Camino de Santiago ~ May 22. 2017 the last big climb and Spanish toilets 

Today I walked literally until the cows came home. (Picture to follow.) The internet connection is not good, so I will post pictures tomorrow. We are at 1,400 meters, and most of that climb over this mountain was during the last 5 k. There is a great commaraderie as people from all nationalities encourage one another for the steep climb. The saving grace was the little villages all along the way where one could stop for a snack or a bite to eat, and of course, the views. John Bierly’s guide book is often used by English speakers, and of the last 5 k he said, “gird up your loins!” For tonight, I am sitting on top of the world, and the view from my bed in the municipal albergue is spectacular! (I just heard they ran out of beds, glad I left at 6 am.)
I wanted to share about the basic needs along the Camino, toilets! Anyone who knows me knows that I drink a lot of water, consequently, I often need facilities. For the most part, there are plenty along the route. The other day there was a primitive hole in a wooden shack, which I will picturelater. Often you need your own paper, but what drives me crazy are the auto turn off lights in the toilet stalls. Most are timed to go off in a short time period. The first time I ran into that problem was when I used the stall after someone else had used it, and before I was finished, the light went out, and it was very dark. Sometimes your business takes a little longer than the auto timer thinks it should take, and once again, you are sitting in in the dark. This gives an entire new meaning to “Being in the dark.” Thank goodness for lights on cell phones!

Camino de Santiago ~ May 20, 2017 The Cruz de Ferro

Camino de Santiago ~ May 20, 2017 The Cruz de Ferro


Not all 18 k hikes are the same, especially if there is a big difference in elevation. Another famous “landmark” of the Camino is the iron cross. At 1,505 meters high you do feel like you are on top of the world.  It was a great hike. 

Pilgrims from all over the world bring stones from home to lay down a sin or a burden or a hardship. I brought a stone from home, but on today’s hike I also collected stones to lay down for others. By the time I got to the cross I had a pretty big pocket of stones. I marked several of them: for my family, for our MUMC family, for friends, for the folks on the prayer list, and one for Claire. There is a stone here in Spain at the Cruz de Ferro for Claire. I spent about an hour praying here. There is something special about praying where many others have prayed, especially the Saints of long ago. 

The scenery was spectacular! It truly was on top of the world!

Part of my daily prayer is that I would have Godly encounters all along the route. Today there were several that were divine appointments. (A woman from Poland, the hospitality of the British who had apples and peanut butter for breakfast, chats with folks from South Africa, and all over the world!)

Now I have a top bunk in an albergue tucked away in these mountains that cost me 6 Euros. The woman on the lower bunk is French and we are going to have the pilgrim meal together, for 11 Euros we get a three course meal!



Camino de Santiago ~ May 19, 2017, Astorga to Rabanal

Last night when I got off the train in Astorga I was surprised  to see a Swedish young man and his dad get off the train. I had walked with them earlier and they, too, had jumped ahead. (They figured out how to take two trains to get there.) We had dinner together and enjoyed the local specialty meats of the area. 

Astorga leads into a new set of high mountains. (By the way, the huge cathedral here is also beautiful and has the Bishop’s house next to it. The Bishop’s house looks a little like a castle) Francis of Assisi walked through this city and stayed here on his way to Santiago!)

Today’s 20 k walk was not hard, but it was windy and cold; Think beach front in October. I was grateful for my green jacket that does a good job of protecting from the wind, and it was still cold!

Today I met Mojo, a four legged friend walking with her person. Her person said it was actually a little hard to find places that take dogs. That dog has walked all the way from France! I also saw my first rainbow on the trail. 

As we started going up into the hills there was a long fence upon which people had weaved crosses made out of sticks into the wire. (Picture below.) I wondered about those who are “simply searching” and what that cross means for them, or if they even put one there. 

Last night’s albergue held 95 people in two rooms. There were a lot of beds and the old building near the cathedral creaked every time someone walked. Tonight I am staying in an Albergue run by the British confraternity of the Camino. Volunteers run the place, and tonight’s volunteers, who all do two weeks at a time, are all American. I am looking forward to high tea at 4:30. 

(Sorry pictures to come later)

Camino de Santiago ~ May 18, 2017, evening, jumping through Burgos to Astorga

Camino de Santiago ~ May 18, 2017, evening, jumping through Burgos to Astorga

Every pilgrim has to make decisions; some have to decide to stop because they have too many blisters or foot injuries. (I know two who have had to stop already, and a third one is considering stopping.) 

My decision came today when I decided to jump forward on the Camino in order to experience a part of the Camino which many describe as the best part. (I don’t know, the parts I have walked have been pretty spectacular!)  In any case, I am not a purist, as many Europeans are, and I don’t know if I will be able to come back. It would be nice to at least SEE Santiago, even if I do not have time to walk all the way. So far I have walked over 1/5 of the way there. But, today I am jumping forward through Burgos to the mountain town of Astorga. It is a good day to jump as there is a major storm today. Pray for the pilgrims who are getting slammed with horizontal, cold rain!

There is no direct way to get to Astorga, except by walking or a 1 am train. The lovely manager of the albergue told me about the bus that would get me within ten k of Burgos. She told me where to catch the bus. There was no busstop sign, no bus schedule, just a regular stop sign where the bus was supposed to stop, and it might come ten or twenty minutes late. My three words of Spanish, (please, bus, where) confirmed I was standing in the correct place. Sure enough, twenty minutes late, it showed up and I  was dropped off two hours later, by then in a lite rain, ten kilometers from Burgos.

 Now I have walked ten k, but I was a little afraid of missing my train connection if I walked, so I asked the cafe/bar worker guy if there was a bus or taxi to Burgos. He said yes for a bus and a lot of other things I did not understand. As it turns out, the bus is only in the morning and evening, so I asked him if he could call a taxi for me. Through the postman as interpreter, who stopped in to get his late morning coffee, I was told by the cafe worker that the taxi was too expensive and I must not take a taxi. He said that I should wait, and he would ask one of his regular customers, who stop in all the time, to take me to Burgos. And, that is what happened. A customer, a kind, nice gentleman, came in for his tortilla and cafe, and said he would take me to Burgos. He even drove me around the old city, which he was very proud of, and then he dropped me off at the huge cathedral. I had time to visit the cathedral and catch a train to Astorga. The rain has stopped, I have jumped forward, and tomorrow it will be time to walk again. (Did I mention how friendly, kind, and full of hospitality the Spanish people are?)

Jumping forward means leaving behind new friendships that have been formed. This morning I said goodbye to two women from Silver Spring who were part of my “first night family.” I also said goodbye to the two German women with whom I was walking and the delightful French grandmother whose company I enjoyed on that really hot day. 

Last night at the pilgrim’s dinner there was a young German man (22) whom I had not seen before. I asked if I could do anything for him as he looked tired. It turns out he had walked 30 k that day, and the day before, and the day before. I asked him why he was walking and he replied because he had the time and to find God. He also said he was already surprised to learn that he didn’t have to find God, but that God was already there and he just had to listen. 

This morning he happened to sit across from me again for breakfast. He was much more refreshed after a night’s sleep. He asked me about my profession, when I told him I was a pastor he asked me, “What does it mean that God is Holy?” I was happy to explain about the holiness of God to him in basic terms (shout out here to Debbie Beall) and then I went on to describe that his response last night was a way of understanding that God’s grace is always with us even before we recognize it. (Shout out here to you, John Wesley.) I read for him a small part of Psalm 139 and explained how God knows us intimately. When I asked if he had ever read the Bible he said he had tried to read it from the beginning, but it was too hard. I suggested he might like to start with a Gospel and a Psalm. He liked that idea. We had a wonderful encounter, and then he walked on, and I went to the stop sign to hope the bus would come, and it did!

Camino de Santiago ~ May 18, morning, pictures from the walk to Viana

Camino de Santiago ~ May 18, morning, pictures from the walk to Viana

Yesterday the pictures would not upload. Here are some pics of the walk to Viana, the churches, and the Camino markers where  people often add their stones. This was the first time I saw an area of written notes, hopes and dreams. The woman sketching was from  Denmark. Check out the stack of hiking boots, which you always take off at the door of the albergue.