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Part Two of LoveWalk in Spain

It was Tuesday, September 1st around 8:15 when we left St Jean and crossed over the Pyrenees into Spain. Our first ascent of 12 km. and 800 feet into Valcarlos took us until 4:15 that afternoon. Martes or Mardi or Marsday, became a day of war, no matter what the language. The unrelenting rain, and the unending climb hammered me into an oblivion of misery, and the end of my strength and resolve.

I had a breakdown, and met a wall of weakness in my body and soul that nailed me to the ground, and made me crawl over the remaining rocks of this final hill. Sobs shook me out of control until I cried out,  “I don’t have the strength! I can’t do this!”. Still I wouldn’t hand over my backpack to John, who was obviously shaken by the depth of my suffering. He had never seen me like this, and went ahead to secure our lodging.

When Marcos the innkeeper saw me enter, he said to John, “I can see she’s a fighter”. Those words poured over me like oil. How could he say that? Couldn’t he see I was undone and beaten?  I sat down on the bunk, and John helped me take off wet clothing and boots, grateful for a warm place to stay that night. Surrounded by a group of strong muscular women pilgrims, I felt like a whining whimp. Marcos assured us we didn’t have to leave at  the customary 8:30 the next morning. We had dinner together with him at a local cafe that evening, and encouraged him to return to faith in Christ.

As we sat around that table, John said, “Mary, this is Our Camino“. He reminded me about times of conquering and overcoming when we hiked the John Muir trail, Mt. Whitney, and Mt. Shasta. “Those days are over, sweetheart. Nothing, no goal or plan, is more important than our marriage. This is a different season, that needs another kind of strength”. And so we changed our focus, and planned our next steps.

Typically, my desires have always trumped my abilities. And that’s when God would step in for the rescue. It was obvious I couldn’t tackle the steep ascents that remained, and the slippery slopes they entailed. The last thing I wanted to do was fall, or sustain an injury that would upend the joy of our 35th Anniversary celebration.

The next morning as we waited to take a taxi to Roncevalles, we noted an older white haired couple trudging up the path. If they can do it, I can do it,  was my immediate thought as I watched them rest on a bench. When they came over to say hello, I noticed an Irish brogue. Charlotte blessed me by her remark, ” I’m not here to be a heroine, but just a pilgrim”. We invited them to share our taxi, much to their delight, and they in turn, invited us to stay at the hotel they had booked.  Their method of Camino-ing helped us to refocus. Charlotte and Peter sent their luggage on ahead to hotels, and traveled only with a small daypack. From then on we sent our backpacks ahead for a small fee. We joined them in a special pilgrim Mass, and dinner that evening. Their light-hearted humor lifted me out of the doldrums of defeatism.

What’s a pilgrim to do after she’s met her Waterloo?  Since we are free from the burden of doing penance for our sins, and punishing our bodies, we can enjoy this, keep our spiritual antennas up so God’s love can pour through in joy and peace. One day we met these Chinese pilgrims on an ancient Roman bridge who insisted on taking my picture, wild and wooly though I be.

mary on bridge

Many God moments and Divine encounters later we met Emily, who had celebrated her birthday the day before mine. She was exactly 20 years younger and had  been injured descending the Alto de Perdon, a steep outcropping of loose rock and shale, taken to a hospital by ambulance some 20 km away to Pamplona to receive her mark of honor in the form of 8 stitches.  We linked together and spent the next few days on the Camino since her speed had been reduced to ours. Together we visited ancient churches, a hermitage and monasteries, and became soul sisters on the way. Our heart-to-heart meeting became the spiritual high point of our pilgrimage.

roman b




Then one day John asked me, “Do you want to go home?’ We had been planning to exit at the half-way mark at Burgos, and prayed for the Lord to direct our steps. But John had received a different burden: the Syrian Refugee Crisis across Europe, and was reluctant to share it with me. I was ready to make a change, so we took a bus to Madrid and waited for direction. It was a paradigm shift in our thinking when we received a welcoming email from Bryan Miller and his family who lived in Berlin, Germany, the epicenter of this historic ethnic upheaval, and who were reaching out to Muslim refugees. The next day we flew out.

Part One of LoveWalk in Spain

Our romantic idyll in France slowly came to a happy ending. We had fallen in love again with each other and with France, and now it was time to become true pilgrims. We mailed home a box of our fancy duds, ditched a suitcase, and switched everything into our backpacks: each carrying two changes of trekking gear, toiletries, water bottles and ponchos. John carried 18 pounds. and me, about 13 pounds.

the symbol of the pilgrimage is the scallop shell which we proudly displayed on our packs.

We had a “shakedown” cruise by walking 10 km. in the rain from Malesherbes to Boulancourt, and arrived soggy, sore, and happy with our success to a small BnB.  Our hosts, Bruno and Catherine, were planning their coming wedding day after living common law for 25 years! She had chosen a passage from “Le Petit Prince” for their unique ceremony, and we exchanged rapturous remarks about one of my all-time favorite books, one that had actually began my love for the French language.

From there we caught a bus to Orleans, (where Joan of Arc had finally succeeded in liberating  France from English occupation), and then a train to Bayonne, then another train to St. Jean Pied au Port, to begin our walk.  But we missed our connection because the train was 30 minutes late! The Lord supplied us with “angels” in the human guise of Francois, a war correspondent (who just happened to cover Viet-Nam when John was there!) Latifah his Moroccan wife, and their son Sylvan. They maneuvered us to First Class seats using classy complaints. He regaled us with stories of French history as we traveled.

When we arrived in St. Jean on August 31st, we were surprised at how cool it was. The pilgrims before us had suffered broiling heat  for two weeks. We were eating dinner at an outdoor cafe when a storm rolled in, complete with driving rain, hail, thunder and lightening. We were not dressed properly, and shivered inside the cafe with all the other pilgrims.

That day we had our pilgrim “passports” stamped at the municipal albergue, were blessed with a private room and double-checked  our gear. This hostel was abuzz with eager pilgrims, eager as we were to begin. The next morning, we began our  El Camino, or the “Way of St, James” ( brother of John the apostle), in a rain that continued all day. But nothing could have prepared me for the journey to our first destination in Varcarlos. We had to take an alternative path called Charlemagne’s Route ever the Spanish Pyrenees into Spain because the other primary route’s hostel was totally booked, and with weather life this, we needed lodging for the night. It was supposed to be less steep then Napolean’s Route, and much easier.

This is a statue of St. James in medieval garb, with his staff, and shell.
This is a statue of St. James in medieval garb, with his staff, and shell. The sign reads”From here all the roads to Santiago become one”. 



LoveWalk in France

“Let’s do something significant for our Anniversary next year!” I said, after watching the movie called “The Way”. Then, with no hesitation and big smiles, we both turned to each other and said in unison, “Let’s do it!”

Inspired by its depiction of an ancient 500-mile pilgrimage, El Camino de Santiago that began in France, and traversed through the Spanish Basque countryside, we began to dream. (John and I had walked the John Muir trail, climbed Mt. Whitney a few times, and Mt. Shasta about 25 years earlier). So we had earned some valid walking credentials in our history.

But when Inspiration comes, you move out with a breath of something new and exciting, many unknowns waiting to be discovered, to create an Adventure par none to celebrate the miracle of our God-breathed Marriage, with its many ups and downs, twists and turns, lavished with moments of mercy and grace.

 John began to organize our route in France: one LOVEWEEK in Paris (a schoolgirl dream of mine), of course, then Giverney (Monet’s garden, John’s favorite artist), Mont St. Michel (a Medieval fortress on an island), the Loire Valley, Rouen and Orleans (for my heroine, Joan of Arc). We planned to spend two and a half weeks in France, enough to resurrect my College French from the dust bins of history.

On Thursday, August 13th, we sat in our Paris apartment, maps in hand, ready to begin. Il pleut. It’s raining. How lovely. But there were learning curves to master: four different keys to the flat, the lift, the stores, the neighborhood, the train station, and the metro!  John masterfully oriented us in one day, and soon we toured Paris via the Seine river on a “batobus” or water taxi.

From our home base we visited Notre Dame for a Gregorian Chant Mass, the Louvre, Montmartre’s Sacre Coeur Basilica, the Eiffel Tower, museums and gardens galore, tasting all the delights this Grand Dame called Paris had to offer.

Then it was time to scale down into pilgrim gear, so we mailed clothes back home, and left an empty suitcase outside the Post Office. While in the Loire Valley we walked 10 km in the rain in ponchos with backpacks as a “shakedown” exercise for our Camino, and decided to train a train from Orleans to Bayonne and a bus to St. Jean Pied au Port. It was time to begin our pilgrimage in Spain.

on the Seine

OmahaMont St MichelMonet's garden

Rouen Cathedral





When the Milk of Human Kindness Fails

A review of  “Ghost Boy”, by Martin Pistorius, with Megan Lloyd Davies, Nelson Books, 2013.

Thank God for Martin’s parents who overcame deep personal despair in living with a child who had suddenly disappeared from sight. They had ostensibly lost all contact; his “ghost image” lay on the bed, unblinking, unmoving, and unable to tell them anything. His mother had two healthy children to care for, and after the first two years, the weight of watching her sick child slowly die finally caused her to crack, and need psychiatric attention after a botched suicide attempt. Martin’s father then became the main caregiver until his wife could fully engage again with their boy.

For untold years they would bathe, dress and feed their boy, once active in athletics, but since age twelve, a helpless, oversized baby. Medical doctors were baffled as test after test failed to give a precise diagnosis. Every kind of medical prescription applied gave a zero percent cure rate. He was finally prescribed as hopeless, and sent home to die, until God stepped in with a Resurrection miracle.

“I think my mind started to awaken at about the age of sixteen, and by nineteen it was fully intact once more: I knew who I was and where I was, and I understood I had been robbed of a real life. That was six years ago…I came to understand that my efforts would never be enough: as I came back to life, no one fully understood… I was completely entombed. The only person who knew there was a boy within the useless shell was God, and I had no idea why I felt his presence so strongly…utterly alone and yet aware that God was my companion.”

God sent him Virna, a massage therapist, who was convinced he understood her words. After learning about a communication technology called AAC through computers she asked, “Do you think you could do something like that, Martin? I’m sure you could.” Her faith in him gave him the courage to try. So, more than thirteen years after he had fallen ill, Martin enrolled in an Alternative Communication Center and learned to read, write, and eventually speak through a computerized voice. In 2006 he was the first of two South-Africans with non-functioning speech to graduate from University. He gave speeches, created websites, and fixed computers after his hidden brilliance was unveiled.

But his grandparents taught him the most important life lesson about love: “If it’s true it will last a life time, and if it’s strong enough, it can be passed from generation to generation.” Martin experienced true love through a woman named Joanna. They met on line, and were married in 2009. The next year he started his own business in the UK. They have since been happily dancing together through life there by God’s grace. Though the milk of human kindness often failed him, God’s Loving kindness restored, released, and raised Martin, as a sign and wonder to many.



God’s Dream


You know how it is among friends. It takes real intimacy and trust for someone to share their dream with you.

It’s an overarching vision that colors their world and drives the pistons of their soul to pursue that dream to fulfillment, and it becomes a reality (aka: “livin the dream”)

No one likes to appear foolish or radical or crazy, or be dismissed as just “a dreamer”. Yet they will risk everything to share it with you.

You hear the change in the tone of their voice, and watch them inching closer as if they are about to burst, and you can’t miss the firelight in their eyes. It’s compelling. They’ve seen into the future; a mystery has been pealed back, and seed is seen.

John and I have often asked Chinese students if they have a dream. In their study of English, they are required to read and understand Martin Luther King’s speech. It inspires them to have one of their own.

In First Century Ephesus, new born Christians definitely learned how to swim upstream early on. They lived in the center of Greek Culture and Commerce, surrounded by worshippers of the goddess Artemis, known also as Diana, patroness of fertility. They had to live out of sync with the values and goals of their society, just as we must do, plagued by the question of whether their little lives could make any real difference.

And then there’s the question of Jesus’ return. They may have been mocked, “Where is the time of His coming?” Then the aching heart’s response, “How long, Lord?”

Paul’s letter from a Roman prison reminds them of God’s ultimate dream through Christ…and convinces them that every detail of their lives [and ours] contributes (or not) to God’s Dream…A long range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in Him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth”. (The Message)

And …”that the energy of Reconciliation is the dynamo at the heart of the universe”. (Peterson’s Introduction to Ephesians)

“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them”. (2Cor. 5:19)

Has God shared His dream with you?

Loved Back to Life, a review

Loved Back To Life: How I Found the Courage to LIVE FREE

By Sheila Walsh, Nelson Books, 2015.


“On the surface I had it made, and everything looked fine-except I was not fine. I had not been fine for a long time. Even surrounded by others, I felt isolated. Trapped by a suffocating anxiety. Restless, though I couldn’t say why. Numbed by a frantic pace. I felt as if I was slowly losing my mind.”(5)


This is a cautionary tale of how a Christian TV talk show host, a Women of Faith speaker, a well-known musical evangelist, and a popular author’s life spiraled out of control. Her sickness had no name. Her professional “friends” avoided her because they could offer no cure for what lay hidden deep in Sheila’s soul. Her public persona had been crumbling. Once during an interview, she suddenly became the one being interviewed, and started crying when her guest asked Sheila what was wrong. Her heart a burst with an unknown sorrow, and now her adoring public began sending letters of inquiry about the nature of her troubled soul.


Sheila finally did the unthinkable. She asked for help, and checked herself into a psychiatric hospital with the blessing of Pat Robertson, the 700 Club host. She had to face the demons of her depression brought on by childhood trauma. Her father’s violent and unpredictable anger had caused her to retreat from showing her emotions at an early age. At times she actually feared for her life as her father changed into this tormented man, full of rage, and finally was admitted into a mental hospital.


Sheila’s “confessional” has given hope to many as she struggled out of a deep pit of depression in order to regain equilibrium, and self-worth. Christ was always at the center of her being, and she never lost faith in His power to heal.









A lovely Latin word for a “crucible, an earthen pot used to melt metals, or a night lamp hanging in front of a crucifix (i.e., fixed to a cross) or a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development, often creating something new in the process…” explains in part what happened to me from April 4th– May 21st (the time of John’s sojourn in China).

T’was not a pleasant season, but certainly a season of growth, exposure, purging, and a wellspring of beauty. It was all wrapped up in a project we shall call a “kitchen remodel”, that John and I had agreed would take place in his absence. And I got wrapped up in it as well.

old kitchen

Old Kitchen

old kitchen 2

He entrusted me with a myriad of financial and practical details.: 1) i.e., paid the workmen, 2) kept track of the bills, 3) choosing a new granite pattern after our first choice was sold out and having to go all the way to their Oakland factory, (a little bit of nail biting and hand wringing went along with that), 4) choosing the paint color for the kitchen, and the hardware for the newly painted cabinets (very vintage) 5) overseeing the new bamboo floor, and buying new baseboard which had to be stained to match the floor, 6) reattaching the living room carpet to the dining room floor, 7) choosing the color for lacquering the huge bookcase in the living room, 8) buying a desk and chair for our newly remodeled office, and I almost forgot, 9) faxing and scanning papers for our refinance transaction.

A huge sweep of newness came into our home, and I was swept up along with it.

It was like a river changing the course of our native habitat, creating a new landscape for us to enjoy, and cleansing it with more light. Lots of cleaning, changing and choosing ensued.


New Kitchen with the lovely graniteIMG_1057






Of course John and I were in communication almost daily by phone. We touched base, and touched hearts through it all. He was actually in a Chinese style crucible of his own remodeling a café for a missionary woman near Tibet.

Did I mention I needed help all along the way, and got it when I needed it? O my, the grace of God exhibited in my wonderful Christian neighbor who painted the kitchen hallway vestibule, and bookcase, AND who came back, touched up all the dings, and installed the new glass knobs on the cabinets, gratis!! An another friend who just happened to be there when John’s new office chair arrived, and gladly put it together.

And so it was….completed by the time John arrived home, the kitchen smelling of lasagne, his favorite meal. He walked around in a daze, hardly believing his eyes. “Is this the same house”? he asked. “Not really”, I said.











Like the First Morning

 “And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day”. Gen. 1:5

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, Mary came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away…” John 20:1

Timing is everything in God’s calendar. Genesis is sometimes called the “Book of Firsts”, or “First Mentions”, where first things are indeed first.

God and man took their first steps together in the Garden planted for them by their Father, an exquisite place of beauty and harmony. God keeps this actual place on earth hidden from view, perhaps buried under the sands of time. It was taken from us, because we violated the first covenant between man and God. We long to return to this sacred place, this uninterrupted time of communion.

Satan boldly assassinated God’s character by accusing his creator of petty jealousy and power mongering. The lie sounded so good…”you will be like God”, and gain knowledge about all of existence, both good and evil. He was not promoting the desire to be “godly”, but rather the lust to have equality with God. Overarching pride, the ability to hide lies within half-truths, and an unquenchable lust for power all originated with him. He continues to rape the innocent who cannot yet discern between good and evil.

So we believed the lie. But all was not lost. God had another plan, another place, and another promise in mind.

The next time God and man walked together on the earth, they were inseparable. God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ, and made his home among us. The “seed of the woman”, the promised one, had come to crush the serpent’s head, and fully reclaim the earth for mankind.

Instead of a garden, there was a stable. Instead of freedom, beauty, and harmony, Jesus grew up in a harsh land dry as a desert, suffering under the heel of Rome. Then came jealousy, lies, betrayal, and murder. The serpent struck back with all his might, bruised the heel of the Redeemer, and brought him down. Or so he thought.

But God had done the unthinkable. He let his Son die. He allowed the “woman’s seed” to be buried in a garden cave, then did the unimaginable. He raised him from the dead, and from his death came a New Creation, a multitude of sons and daughters: the fruit of his soul’s travail, the birth of the church, his body on earth.

And like the first morning, God separated light from darkness, and the prince of darkness, that old serpent, will never be able to extinguish it.

Wolves of Worry, Hounds of Hell


The image of our blue planet passing before the sun

An editorial

Whether I choose to or not, I am in touch with this blue planet in every possible direction, every culture, every catastrophe, every political fallout, every new government uprising and takeover, all the while knowing the tapeworm of Wall Street will devour someone’s lifesavings if they trust in the bubble-hype again.

I lament

Having to live in the thicket of global awareness, walking the tightrope of decency through the dizzy media-maze, watching the ice sheets melt, the glaciers shrink, the poisoning of habitats, the loss of wilderness, the ocean breeding an island of plastic refuse we have made and refuse to see.

I lament

Having to view the extravaganza of bloody violence, of hearts breaking in disbelief and helplessness, of flags flagrantly raised in hatred and disregard for human dignity, of ancient towns pummeled into dust, of countries raped to death, of refugee camps growing exponentially to shelter the survivors.

I lament

Seeing the old stoned by mockery and deceit, the young sold as idols before they are cast into junk piles, older minds disintegrating under the weight of a senseless disease, younger minds bending under the torment of senseless tweets and shameless texts.

I lament

The rule of law being uncircumcised among us, and replaced by sound bytes, viral videos, and smart phones, of hands relegated to pushing buttons instead of pressing into another’s, of eyes glued down to nowhere and seeing no one, of ears plugged into another world, of gathering friends you don’t have to face, liking and un-liking them, liking pages, books, bands and movies instead, liking what should not be liked, and love dissolving into a hook-up, an intransigent noun, not an action verb.

I lament

The time when radios once told me the “rest of the story” and sold me the latest gadget or gizmo, before I let the Television camel into the tent, another kind of animal warning me “viewer discretion is advised”.

A long time ago Allen Ginsberg HOWLED for his generation. I LAMENT for mine.

Will somebody answer the phone?





Pounding on the 21st Century Church Door

A Review of “Building Civilization on the Bible” by Jay Grimstead, founder and director of Coalition on Revival, & Eugene Calvin Clingman, Administrator of the International Church Council Project, Nordskog Publishing, Ventura, California, 2014.

In the spirit of Martin Luther, Grimstead called theologians and Christian leaders to an “International Council on Biblical Inerrancy” (ICBI) in 1977. They included the following: Francis Schaeffer, RC Sproul, Norman Geisler, JI Packer, DJ Kennedy, Bill Bright and fifty others to form what he called a “theological army” to defend the inerrancy of the Bible.

This book is a compilation of 24 treatises written over a thirty-seven year period, the work of some three hundred theologians who met together and discussed how to combat the flood of false teachings currently sweeping through the portals of the evangelical church. These men wrote papers to deal with issues such as: the Kingdom of God, the Omniscience of God, the Atonement, the eternal fate of unbelievers, along with Socialism, Feminism, Abortion, and Homosexuality. They wanted to see the Bible applied to every sphere of life and ministry, i.e., in law, government, economics, the media, medicine, science, the family, evangelism, and discipleship, a monumental undertaking.

The crown of Grimstead’s life work  is promoting a vision for an International Church Council, modeled after the Nicene Council, to gather in Wittenburg, Germany in October 2017, coinciding with the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses nailed to the Wittenburg Castle church door which sparked the Reformation. It will be interesting to see whether this will become a reality.

I am reminded of a scripture in Amos 8:11 where he warns of a “famine of the Word of the Lord” brought by a pastor who is burdened for young people attending Christian colleges, who are incredibly ignorant of the scriptures and have a very fuzzy idea of basic doctrines.

In lieu of the foggy climate in today’s Christian circles, I think this book has a lot of research to offer in reaffirming the Faith of our Fathers. And in the present age of renewed persecution against Christians by brutally zealous Islamic militants, the next generation needs to be able to give valid reasons for “the hope within us”.