Here are eleven suggestions for turning this season of your journey, perhaps this Lent, into a spiritual pilgrimage. They will require intention and attention, but they will be worth the effort. Choose one or combine aspects of several.
1. Set yourself a question to keep in mind throughout the weeks leading to Easter. Here are a few possibilities:
- Ask yourself what aspect of Poloma’s pilgrimage describes your experience at this season in your life and then generate a question about that stage to review daily.
- Perhaps there’s already a looming issue of health or work or relationship that you can frame into a question to hold before God during your passage.
- Maybe you long for peace or joy or fulfillment or courage or something else; ask God to show you instances of that each day and then look for his answers.
Regularly record in your journal or share with a friend any answers or hints of answers that arise.
2. Throughout the weeks, look for a narrative or image from Scripture that speaks for you and your place on the long road. You may find it in one of the Scriptures suggested in a Lenten devotional or you may find it elsewhere. Stay with the picture or story, savoring it, exploring it more deeply. Return to that Scripture daily over the course of your two-week travel.
3. Choose a centering word or object to help you quiet your mind. Perhaps you seek renewed energy; choose a word or object, which represents renewed energy. Repeat the word or visualize the object to maintain a stillness of mind that allows you to abide with God. Whenever monkey-mind begins to fill up the quiet of the pilgrimage with thoughts or worries, discipline yourself to return to the still point using your centering word or visualization.
4. Make up a prayer that you can say in your head in the space of one breath. Repeat that prayer as you breathe in and out whenever there’s downtime, waiting time, boring time, or (even) designated communion-with-God time. As you meditate, notice what bubbles to the surface. Pause to offer those deeper things to God and then return to the prayer. Some people say, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” Or “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.”
5. Seek opportunities to serve those who serve you, enjoying the delight of God’s smile without seeking the recognition of those you serve. Get creative even while you’re being sensitive. Return the results and your reactions to God as you write in your journal or sit still in prayer.
6. Actively look for God throughout Lent. Notice his presence. Talk to him about everything, no matter how trivial. Expect a response. Write it down or make a point of addressing your thoughts to him instead of “keeping them to yourself.” Or choose a prompt and every time you see, hear, smell, taste, or touch that prompt, pause to return your actions, thoughts and feelings to God. Some prompt suggestions include: opening your bag or briefcase, taking a swallow from the water bottle, climbing stairs, or eating chocolate. (I know, in Lent you’re supposed to give up chocolate or chips or sweets or some other food. What if you didn’t stop eating it, but instead made it the occasion for prayer? In the case of my chocolate habit, I’d add about four conversations with God to my day.)
7. Start and end every day with prayer. Insist on that in spite of anything else that might interfere. Or start and end every day with Scripture-reading. You may choose to read through a gospel like Mark or an Old Testament book like Ruth. Don’t leave it to your Bible study leader or minister. Read even just a paragraph before washing up in the morning and turning in at night.
8. Choose a piece of music, religious or otherwise, to be your soundtrack for your journey. Play it on your headset daily. Listen to it in times of silence. Return to it. Allow it to become your expression to God and receive it as his expression to you (or both). Share its impact with others or write down what happens each day as you experience it in conjunction with what you’re doing.
9. Seek a “word for the day” as you listen to your boss, your colleagues, store clerks, wait staff, your roommate, your spouse, and your children. How is God using that word? What does that theme mean to you as it intersects with your own thoughts, feelings, concerns, etc.? Listen for a new word each day. Write down what seems to be the theme and what impact it has on you. Share that with a friend or with your small group.
10. Daily sketch what you see, think or feel. When you are done ask yourself where God is in the drawing. What is he doing? How can you tell he is present? Locate yourself in the drawing. How have you depicted yourself? How do the drawing self and the drawing God intersect? If one or the other is not present, literally or figuratively, can you tell why? Share what you see with someone else. Ask them what they see.
11. Use a devotional to shape your journey. Questions often follow the reading or arise in your mind. These may help you think through what is happening in the Scripture on which the devotional is based or the reading itself and how this relates to you. Journal your answers and other thoughts or sketch what arises as you move through the season.
Come back next Tuesday, February 19, to follow my journey to Israel and to think with Moses about embarking on the greatest Israel pilgrimage in history.