the Way of God

Wakeman, OH

Yesterday at the library I was looking through the Tao Te Ching and found these good passages:

Is the Way [of God] not like drawing a bow?
What is higher is pulled down, and what is lower is raised up;
What is taller is shortened, and what is thinner is broadened;
The Way [of God] decreases those who have more than they need
And increases those who need more than they have.

It is not so with Man.
Man decreases those who need more than they have
And increases those who have more than they need.

To give away what you do not need is to follow the Way.

The best of man is like water,
Which benefits all things, and does not contend with them,
Which flows in places that others disdain,
Where it is in harmony with the Way.

That last one is my favorite...


an enjoyable day

Oberlin, OH

Had a rough time finding shelter last night and got a little wet. The night before, though, I slept well in a cemetery (a place recommended by Peace Pilgrim). And today I'm enjoying Oberlin, a pretty college town that I've walked through a couple times before, two years ago. I was able to rinse my shirt in a pond this morning and even shave and trim my beard before I got here, so I'm feeling (and looking) pretty good. There's even a $3 movie theater here, with an old-fashioned marquee. I think I'll go tonight.

I'm also involved in an interesting conversation in the Jesus Radicals forum. About raising kids in radical Christian communities.

This morning I noticed these verses:

"These are the ones sown upon rocky ground, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when suffering or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

"And others are the ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful." (Mk 4.16-19)
Jesus focuses on two things that cause people to fall away from him:
1. Avoidance of suffering
(not just any suffering but suffering "on account of the word")

2. The accumulation of money and possessions.


like helping mom make cookies

Elyria, OH

In church Sunday, as the usher approached with the offering basket, I saw a man in the pew in front of me hand a dollar bill to his young daughter. She then eagerly reached out and dropped it in the basket.

And I thought that was like our "good work" in this world. It's not as if God needs our hands or our effort to accomplish his purposes. I'm sure our actual achievement usually falls far short of the Spirit's inspiration in us. So why try to use us at all? I think it's very much like a mother inviting her child to help her make cookies; she doesn't need the help, but she wants to include the child. Because she loves him. And even though the child is inefficient and messes up, the mother can make it come out right, and she wants to share the joy of what she is doing.

Similarly, the father included his daughter in his giving. I wonder if we would be more cheerful givers if we saw our lives like that man and his daughter? God gives to us freely, so that we can pass it along to others.

Yesterday morning, as I approached a bus stop, a man was asking a young woman for money. When she said no he immediately turned to me, repeating, "You got a little change for a cup of coffee?" Before I could reply the woman practically yelled. "Don't do it! He's lying!" Then the man started arguing with her and I continued on.

But I thought about that scene. What if, as she yelled, I stopped and gave her five dollars, saying she could give it to the man or do whatever she wanted with it? I'm not sure if that would have made any difference (she may have had bad experiences with this man before). But it's an interesting thought...


the weekend in Cleveland

From the readings at mass yesterday...

2 Kings 4.8-10:

One day Elisha went on to Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food. And she said to her husband, "Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God, who is continually passing our way. Let us make a small roof chamber with walls, and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there."
Makes me think of Dorothy Day's hope that all Christians would have a "Christ room" in their homes, to be ready to take in those who needed a place to stay. A good idea. And some Christians are already doing it; I've stayed in many Christ rooms along the way.

Mt 10.39-40:
"He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.

"He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me."
Two of my favorite sayings of Jesus. Especially since I've been walking. This past week has offered many opportunities to talk about Jesus and my walking experiences--losing our lives for his sake, receiving others and being received--though each conversation had its own unique emphasis:
With Joe, as we watered flowers and tomatoes, its was about giving and receiving as gifts, rather than for money or trade. "You received without paying, give without pay." (Mt 10.8)

With Elizabeth, doing dishes at the Storefront, it was about finding friends everywhere, since she's moving to a new college this fall.

With Maria, a young Maryknoll sister, it was about struggling for ideals, specifically relating to the problems of economics and politics in big religious institutions.

With Megan, laying on the grass after Maria's presentation about Zimbabwe, it was about risk taking and the challenge of our families' fears, since she's about to go on a long bicycle trip alone.

With Meagan, as we planted and weeded in the the house garden, it was about courage and the importance of close, supportive relationships when living and working with the poor.

And with Jesse, who wanted me to jump off the pier into Lake Erie with him and Marlo (who jumped in a dress, by the way). "You're about trusting God, right?" he said.

I sagely reminded him that Jesus chose not to jump off the pinnacle of the temple...


Politics consists of never venturing more than is possible at any moment, never going beyond what is humanly probable.

[But] In Christianity, if there is no venturing out beyond what is probable, God is absolutely not with us...

-Soren Kierkegaard


"Why does he eat with sinners?"

It turned out to be well worth the wait. When I went back to the house for dinner, I was welcomed by Peter and Marlo and Meagan and Joe, then went with them to their storefront a few blocks away. It's open weekday evenings and weekend mornings, a place for homeless people (or anyone) to hang out for a few hours, take showers, do laundry. There's coffee and usually some food (soup and bread and pastry last night). Also cards and a piano. The high point was when one of the younger guys asked a volunteer to play "Heat Wave," by Martha and the Vandellas, and then sang it with all his might. Pretty good, too.

And when we got back to the house, Amber was playing Canon in D by Pachelbel.

This morning I read this passage from Mark 2:

As Jesus sat at table in [Levi's] house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?"

When Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."
Does this mean the scribes were "well," "righteous"? No. Jesus could have said, "Those who think they are well have no need of a physician." But by turning away from them and spending his time with outcasts and sinners instead, Jesus also gets their attention. "Why do you walk away from us, reject our ways, our respectable society?" As a sign to them also. That their ways are not righteous, not as "well" as they think.
"I came into the world that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." (Jn 9.39)

Reminds me to pray for Robert, a guest I met here last night, who is almost completely blind (from glaucoma treated too late). His wife is having surgery today. He is very worried that she might not live through it. But he was grinning when he shared this piece of wisdom:
"Women are a headache. Make sure to bring your aspirin."


give them a chance

Cleveland, OH

Good night's sleep last night, though it was a little cold. Beautiful full moon. So bright it startled me when I woke up during the night.

I was staying in a park in Brecksville, the same place I stayed two years ago when I was walking east-west through Ohio. So I looked back at my 2003 journal. This entry was made about the time I was passing through this area:

The last few days, I've been thinking that the real point of such patient endurance is to "give others a chance." I think this is also the purpose behind pacifism, nonviolence, noncoercion. Give the other person (perhaps the enemy or aggressor) the chance to repent, or the chance to do the right thing. Don't give up on them and impatiently walk away (or destroy them), but really give them a chance to accept or reject what God is offering.

I've experienced this recently in waiting for a couple priests to show up at their houses. Twice lately I've gotten pretty negative impressions (or been ignored) by people around the priest, but decided to wait anyway. To give him a chance. Saturday, the priest showed up and was nothing like I had been led to expect. He walked right up as I was sitting on his porch, and promptly invited me to stay the night in his house. He even invited me to join him for a dinner he was having for a couple friends. Steak, wine, laughter, the works. That was beautiful.

And it reinforced for me: be patient. At least give them a chance. Endure what you must. If they reject, OK, it's bound to happen (often, even). But give them a chance.

That's good advice. I just arrived at the Catholic Worker house here, and I'm not sure how the weekend will go. The house is very full and the workers are busy. The woman who opened the door for me was polite, but then asked me to leave and come back when one of the workers was there. So I'm at the library. But... be patient.


a little tired

Richfield, OH

The first day walking (in over two years) was not too bad, but last night was a little rough. It rained. And while I managed to stay dry, it will take a while to get used to sleeping outside in public places again.

Walking as the sun rose was beautiful, though. Sunbeams broken through the trees and morning mist. I rinsed my shirt (and myself) in a small, still pond, hidden from the highway and ringed with yellow and white wildflowers, where fish jumped and a flock of geese eyed me warily. It felt good.

And it's good to be out of "limbo." This appeared last fall in a Pittsburgh Valley News Dispatch article about Pilgrim George Walter (who I met two years ago):

Paul Rohde, originally from Florida and now living in Evanston, Ill., became a lifetime pilgrim about five years ago. He usually charts his path by churches at which he can rest along the way. But the 34-year-old's status is in limbo. Rohde, who lives at the Mennonite-based Reba Place Fellowship, opted not to take a pilgrimage this summer, George says, because he recently began a relationship and did not want to leave his girlfriend.
And Heather was not a bit mortified when I read that to her!



I was invited to another party Sunday, my second in as many days, a birthday party this time. Again, mostly Latino. When the guest of honor arrived, the dozen or so children lined up with flowers to present to her. One little boy didn't want to. "I want to give it to my mommy!"

With all the happy children at the Akron Catholic Worker house (four houses, actually), it seems like it could be a good place to raise children. A thought I've been turning over in my mind. Presently, the guests there are mostly immigrants, families or single mothers, or fathers with families in Mexico or Peru. I'd feel safe having any of them watch my child.

But I suppose it would be very hard for a child to have their friends move away frequently (as it is really just a transitional place for the guests). Sometimes the families don't move very far, though. And they all go to the Spanish mass at a church downtown, where I'm sure they would still attend if they moved elsewhere in the city.

This article was interesting, too. Just trying to envision future possibilities...

Make your way straight before me

As I start out walking, this is my prayer (taken from the psalm I chanted this morning):

Make your way straight before me.

Let all who take refuge in you rejoice,
let them ever sing for joy;
and do defend them,
that those who love your name may exult in you. (Ps 5.8,11)


"troubadours for Christ"

In May of 1940, Dorothy Day wrote this:

Peter Maurin has been talking for the past two years of recruiting troubadours for Christ. More and more I am convinced that together with our purely material efforts of building up hospices and farming communes we need these fellow travellers with the poor and the dispossessed to share with them their poverty and insecurity and to bring them the reminder of the love of God.

I've been moving in this direction for quite a while now, often without understanding where I was headed. Yet I'm not close enough yet to those who need the gospel the most. I haven't enough direct experience with the poor and afflicted to feel confident and comfortable with them, and so to share God's love in a way they can feel deeply. This is my next step, I think.

[I found out that Dorothy and Peter concluded that the troubadour idea was impractical, since they couldn't imagine getting the extra money to pay for car and trailer and food for such travellers... I guess they assumed no one would be crazy enough to walk.]

Yesterday afternoon was fun. I went to a party for fathers, put on by the guests and volunteers here, mostly all Latino. The food was great (especially the refried black beans). And then many gathered around the TV to watch soccer, cheering and shouting in Spanish, with kids running back and forth the whole time. I couldn't understand many words, but it was fun.

Later I sat out on the front porch and watched the show. A bunch of young guys from the neighborhood played basketball with a hoop they set up in the street, slowing the occasional car that passed. Children circled on bicycles. A man on the porch next door was giving haircuts to some women; and a voice shouted from across the street, "I'm next!" A big, old dog lay in their yard. Watching it all, like me.


praying for me

I was walking through downtown Akron, eerily quiet on a Saturday morning, when a man approached asking for help. We walked together to the place where he was trying to get a room and I gave him the money I had with me. Then he asked God to bless me. And said he would pray for me, assuring me that God heard his prayers.

That afternoon I was late for mass, arriving just as Psalm 69 was being read. This line caught my ear: "For the Lord hears the needy..."

I'm glad to have him praying for me. His name is Vinny.


on the road again

[To read through these entries from the road, use the "next page" link near the bottom of each entry to proceed to the next entry. Or note the date of this entry, and use the "journal archive" in the sidebar on the right to view whole months at a time. There are 38 entries for the 2005 pilgrimage.]

After a disorienting 28-hour bus ride to Akron, OH, I began my walk. Fortunately, I only had to walk about a mile before I got to the Catholic Worker house here, where I'm staying for the weekend. Joe May and Peter Yehl welcomed me warmly over lunch. "You are among friends here." I think this will be a good, quiet place to focus myself for the trip. (The time at my parents' place was also restful and very pleasurable; as Heather said, perfect preparation for an adventure.)

Yesterday morning on the bus I read this line, one that has caught my eye before, describing Jesus' experience on the cross:

So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, "He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him..." (Mt 27.41,43)
It echoes Psalm 22.7-8. The cynical challenge to faith.

And the only possible answer to it has to come from God himself. We have to wait and see. "He trusts in God; let God deliver him..."



Playing with digital photography...

and bows and arrows...


florida wildlife

Heather noticed this 8ft critter in the lake yesterday:


"Come to me"

Yesterday I found my old copy of Kierkegaard's Training in Christianity, and noticed this interesting passage. Here he's commenting on Matthew 11.28, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest":

"Come to me!" Strange! For [mere] human compassion also, and willingly, does something for them that labor and are heavy laden; one feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, makes charitable gifts, builds charitable institutions, and if the compassion be heartfelt, perhaps even visits those that labor and are heavy laden. But to invite them to come to one, that will never do, because then all one's household and manner of living would have to be changed.

For a man cannot himself live in abundance, or at any rate in well‑being and happiness, and at the same time dwell in one and the same house together with, and in daily intercourse with, the poor and miserable, with them that labor and are heavy laden! In order to be able to invite them in such wise, a man must himself live altogether in the same way, as poor as the poorest, as lowly as the lowliest, familiar with the sorrows and sufferings of life, and altogether belonging to the same station as they, whom he invites, that is, they who labor and are heavy laden.

If he wishes to invite a sufferer, he must either change his own condition to be like that of the sufferer, or else change that of the sufferer to be like his own; for if this is not done the difference will stand out only the more by contrast. And if you wish to invite all those who suffer—for you may make an exception with one of them and change his condition [but not all]—it can be done only in one way, which is, to change your condition so as to live as they do; provided your life be not already lived thus, as was the case with him who said: "Come hither unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden!" Thus said he; and they who lived with him saw him, and behold! there was not even the least thing in his manner of life to contradict it.


"even there your hand will lead me"

This morning I sat on my parents' porch (in Florida) and watched the sun rise over the pasture where four horses grazed together. And read these verses from Psalm 139:

You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand will lead me,
and your right hand will hold me.

That's very important to me as Heather and I leave the place that has been secure for us for the last (almost) three years. And I'll be hitting the road again soon.

Sunday, we said goodbye at church and gave them a (much enlarged) copy of this Calvin and Hobbes comic strip (with the reference Lk 12.22-31):


leaving tomorrow

This past week has been disorienting. Heather and I are moving out, new people are moving in; we spent a couple days in Champaign, meeting the community we will live with this fall, then came right back into this community; and tomorrow we're flying to Florida to visit my parents, so we're trying to say all our goodbyes. Quite a mix.

Maybe I'll just post some things I enjoyed from the LarkNews website. They just came out with a T-shirt with the slogan:

Bloom Where You're Planted.
Stay Mediocre.
See you in Heaven.

And here's links to a couple of their ads (Flash animation):

From LarkNews Books (see Jer 13.26)

We Can Help (for Heather)