"I will give you rest"

This morning at mass we sang "Be Not Afraid," by Bob Dufford. It begins like this:

You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid.
I go before you always.
Come follow me,
And I will give you rest.

Good promises to contemplate as the walk nears (and Heather's trip, too). But I also thought of the last part of the refrain, "Come follow me, and I will give you rest." I've come to accept those words as a promise for the present as well as the future, since Jesus also said, "The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come upon you." So I've looked for the rest offered even now.

And our arrival here has been a great experience of that rest. I've told Heather before that I don't believe in "too good to be true" (with God). But, like our relationship, the Mahoneys and this retreat place seems almost too good to be true. It reminds me so much of what appealed to me about the monastic life, but it's so much better, more open, with a ministry to poor people, and a lovely setting for family life, or any life for that matter. The nameless church folks are also great. We talked theology at a local bar with some of them on Thursday and worshipped at their house tonight (I'm still here using their computer). A good group of young couples, and fun to be with. Just what we needed.

And to think it began when I picked the Mahoneys' newsletter off a cluttered desk in a moment of desperation...



We've arrived at the St. Francis Catholic Worker retreat house and already spent a few days with the Mahoneys. The area is beautiful and I like John and Polly. They seem committed and content in their work, and say they are open to some changes if Heather and I have new ideas.

And tonight we are going to meet the young folks of the "nameless church," a new community in Fredericksburg that I mentioned several months back. They're meeting at a bar around 9 to relax and discuss theology. And they've invited us to spend the night at their communal house, since Heather gets her yellow fever vaccination (for Africa) here in town in the morning.

I'm always a little intimidated by new people and new surroundings, but this seems like it may be the beginning of something good.


another pair

I've been walking in the mornings to try to get back in shape. But a couple days ago my homemade sandals broke. I'd used them for the last two walks, probably 1600 miles at least, but I thought they'd last for one more. Nope.

Luckily, I'd cut another pair from an old tire before I left Reba Place (where they had the tires and a band saw). So I could finish them with the tools my dad had here. They came out pretty good, with several improvements over the first pair. Now I need to walk in them a few weeks to make sure they are comfortable and make any necessary adjustments.

Paul Gallagher is still eager to go with me, though he said he gets a little nervous at times thinking about it. Me too. I've never walked with someone else before; I'm sure it will be different and have its own challenges. And benefits, too, I imagine.


the plan

Yesterday I started working out the first leg of my walk, and discovered that Yahoo has a much better map system now than a year ago. It makes it much easier to plan a route from point to point. And they have satellite photos now, too (here's a good shot of the retreat place).

When I leave St. Francis (the Mahoneys' retreat place) and start walking, my first destination will be the Little Flower Catholic Worker farm. It's only about 50 miles away. If I take it slow starting out, it should take about four days. Here's the plan for the first leg.

The whole trip should look something like this. The main stops after the CW farm are the McClains in Strasburg (who were the first family I visited, where the picture was taken of me and Gabrielle), Holy Cross abbey in Berryville (where I visited on my first walk and again two years later), and the DC Catholic Worker. I might also be able to cross paths again with George Walter, who's walking a loop through the same area this summer.

It looks like it might only take a month, but that's the right amount of time for Paul Gallagher, who's still planning to go with me. I don't mind a shorter walk, either. I wanted to stay in Virginia and meet some of the folks I'll probably be working with in the future, and I'm also eager to get back to St. Francis and start there.


family time

My brother Dave has been here at my parents' place, too, for Mother's Day. A good time. This morning before he left we looked through some of my old favorite pictures. Here are some family shots from way back...

My first niece, Rachel (who's married now), on Dave's belly

Dad, Dave, and Glen, in the Boundary Waters

And Dave and Mom on a family walk
(with contrasting opinions of it)

For a more recent picture, slightly doctored, click here.


in the ark

We're enjoying life in Florida at my parents' place. And I've been using their computer to scan some old pictures. Here's a Far Side I had on my desk at Reba Place; I thought it was a perfect image of community living...

(click on image for full size)


getting on the bus

I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
but the LORD helped me.
The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures for ever!
(Ps 118)


our weekend celebration

Last night was our last night on house duty, and I made pizza here for the last time. Today, Heather and I are celebrating our first two years together with a picnic at the park, with tabbouleh, stuffed olives, fresh baguette, red wine, cantaloupe, and dark chocolate. Followed by a concert tonight, free, for Mozart's 250th birthday. And I put together that picture, an enhanced combination of one of the cell phone shots of us in France and a poem she once gave me.

Tomorrow night we'll stop by the pub for one last Guinness and some Irish music. Not a bad way to end our time here...


nice surprise

Last week a guy who has come here often, almost always drunk, showed up asking for help with a prescription. He was visibly shaking. It was the DTs, he said, but he had gotten a prescription to calm his nerves and slow his heart rate, he just didn't have the money to get it filled. Then, when I was walking with him to the drug store, he told me he couldn't go in since he had been banned from the store for a loud argument he had there with his girlfriend. So we walked up to the drive-thru window to get the medication.

Well, yesterday he shows up again. And pays me back--and even insists I take $5 "interest"! He said he was going around to everyone, "settling up." He wished me good luck on our upcoming travels.

Also I noticed he was wearing a T-shirt I had put in the free clothes box. (It was Heather's shirt from college; she had passed it on to me.) This guy has had his share of woman problems, so I smiled thinking of him walking around wearing the T-shirt with this Shakespeare quotation emblazoned across the chest:

Get thee to a nunnery! Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?


"Never, that's when."

Our newsletter came out last week. I was tempted to include this article from the Onion:

Friendship With Homeless Man One-Sided

NEW HAVEN, CT—Yale University junior Steve Hamlin received what he described as a "hard lesson" this week when he realized that he was the only one putting any effort into his friendship with homeless Vietnam War veteran Freddie Paige.

"In any relationship, there's give-and-take, but with this guy, it's all take, take, take," said Hamlin, 20. "I sometimes think he prefers a hot meal and a warm blanket to my company."

"When was the last time he did something thoughtful for me?" Hamlin added. "Never, that's when."

The pair met in late January, when Hamlin approached Paige at a bus shelter and asked if it was all right if he sat down. According to Hamlin, the two immediately hit it off.

"Freddie was really easy to talk to," said Hamlin, who recalled discussing such diverse topics as politics, personal philosophies, world injustice, the weather, homelessness in America, and the meaning of life. "I thought he was just as introspective as I was, but now I wonder if he was even listening to me at all. Sometimes he acts like I'm not even there. Like his mind is somewhere else."

Hamlin began to notice cracks in their bond as early as mid-February, when Paige stopped grunting a half-hearted thanks for the grilled-cheese sandwiches Hamlin would bring him from the campus dining hall. "I'm not saying he had to go crazy with gratefulness, but you know, the grunt was nice," Hamlin said.

The philosophy major also complained about always having to "come to him" to get any time together.

"Freddie is so unreliable—sometimes I'll go to meet him at his usual spot and he's not there," Hamlin said. "Then I'll see him an hour later asleep on the bench near the McDonald's, almost completely covered in newspaper, as if he's trying to hide. When I wake him up, he gets irritated and acts startled, like he doesn't even recognize me."

Hamlin pointed out other ways in which Paige was not "pulling his weight," including never asking Hamlin how his day was, never paying him back, and repeatedly trying to bum cigarettes off him despite the fact that Hamlin has told him "a million times" that he quit smoking a year ago.

"It's like all he cares about is himself and his own basic needs, and that takes precedence over everything," Hamlin added.


"on pilgrimage"

Paul Gallagher, a former volunteer at this Catholic Worker house, is very interested in walking with me for a month this summer. We'll be discussing it more this week (before I leave). It's the first time I might have a walking partner.

We talked yesterday about the basics, and I encouraged him to look at some of my journals from past walks. And this excerpt from a winter journal (written five years ago, but still what I believe) where I focused on some of the theology and symbolism of pilgrimage. I looked at it again this morning. This part fits well with some of my recent comments about health care costs and encouraging others to give freely:

We are always dependent on others; we simply cannot survive without the help of others. We only deceive ourselves when we attempt to use dollar bills to convince everyone that we are independent. Inter-dependence is a fact of life, and a very good and holy gift of God. Jesus himself clearly lived a inter-dependent life. He was constantly provided with food from other people's tables and shelter under other people's roofs (and he taught his disciples to do the same: Mt 10.8-11, which contains that beautiful command, "You received without paying, give without pay"). Jesus preached and lived a radical dependence on God, who met all his needs through others. Just as God meets our needs through others.

As much as we hear about Paul working to 'pay his own way,' that was not always the case for him. Often he writes about gathering money at churches to support other churches, and sometimes part of that support was paying his way (2 Cor 11.8-9):
I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in want, I did not burden any one, for my needs were supplied by the brethren who came from Macedonia. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.
[Also note Phil 4.16, where Paul talks about receiving financial support from the Philippians when he was in Thessilonica.] Here we see Paul 'not burdening' in the same way Jesus did. Some people gave freely to him, so he could give freely to others. Especially when it came to preaching the gospel, 'giving freely' was very important to Paul. I think that's what made him so obviously uncomfortable about receiving anything from the people he was preaching to. He often defended the preacher's "right" to expect help from the congregation, but Paul wanted the gospel to be free of charge. This is demonstrated in 1 Corinthians 9. First Paul reiterates the preacher's "rights," then:
But I have made no use of these rights, nor am I writing to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have any one deprive me of my ground for boasting. ...What then is my reward? Just this: that in my preaching I may make the gospel free of charge... (1 Cor 9.15,18)
Boasting aside, I think Paul's got it exactly right here. The important thing is, not paying your own way, not independence, but being able to give freely (and in Paul's case the gift is the highest: the gospel). Earning money by selling our services is one way to be able to give freely; and perhaps Paul did encourage this and do this himself. But this method requires us to not give freely to some people (our customers) so that we can give freely to others. Plus there are other objections against requiring payment from others for our services (Jesus himself raised them; for example, Lk 6.33-35, and Lk 14.12-14). But is there any other way? Paul himself demonstrated another way: Accepting help from those who want to give freely to us enables us to give freely to others. That way, all our human interactions are guided by the generosity of love and all witness to our common dependence on each other and, ultimately, on God. Not surprisingly, Jesus lived just like this. And for those who worry that living this way won't provide the necessities of life, Jesus said, "Look at the birds and the lilies." (Mt 6.25-33)

I keep shifting from Paul to Jesus, but I don't think Paul would mind. I will conclude, however, with Paul's words about the ideal form of (Christian) society, where we give when others are in need, and accept when we are in need. Where we don't worry about 'getting paid' or 'paying our own way' or becoming rich, but imitate Christ, who was willing to become poor so that we all might receive his riches:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. [...Here Paul mentions a donation the Corinthians had apparently promised for another church...] I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your want, that there may be equality. As it is written, "He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack." (2 Cor 8.8-9,13-15)
Note that Paul is not talking about heaven here, or just addressing the clergy. This is to a whole community, on earth (and it sounds much like the real, earthly community described in Acts 2.44-47 and 4.32-35). Those whose creative work has produced some abundance are encouraged to give freely to those who are in need. They give what they can give, and they receive what God provides for them through their own work and the gifts of others. No payment required. And this does not necessarily result in idleness or anyone being "burdened." These problems may arise, so we need to hear Paul's warnings. But warnings are not a model for goodness. Jesus is our model for goodness--and his life clearly showed us the way.


some good news

I enjoyed the weekend away. The park was huge and woodsy (and wet). But we had a fireplace in the cabin to warm and enliven the place. One of my favorite things was waking up and looking out the window, and only seeing wet, bright green leaves.

Then when we got back there was this welcome news from our church:

Dear Paul:

I'm sorry to get back to you so late, but I have good news. The Family Fund has voted to pay your two doctor bills, which you said were $288 and $60. We will need to get addresses...

For all of us who are not able to volunteer full-time, an opportunity to help someone who does is like an extension of our volunteer capabilities. Thank you for doing the Lord's work, and for allowing us to be part of it.

Jan Dalal