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Sabbaticalogue Wk. 10 – “Sole” Care is Just as Important as “Soul” Care

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“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Right? I sure hope so.

I’m writing this sabbatical update from an “albergue” (hostel) in Boadilla del Camino, Spain, about 437 km from Santiago de Compostella. Don’t ask me to put that in miles right now. My brain hurts. But not as much as my feet.

One of the many lessons I’ve learned as I have now finished Day 12 of walking the Camino is that “sole” care is just as important as “soul” care.

Here’s where my problem began. I’m a cheapskate. I bought my hiking shoes on clearance, even though they were a half size too small. I got a good deal, or so I thought. I believed my shoes would expand as I wore them in, but I didn’t take into consideration that feet would also expand with heat. 

Long story short, my shoes are now donated to the “gods” of the Camino, as I left them as an offering somewhere around Lorca, Spain. I helped the Spanish economy in a slight way, as I purchased new trail shoes that have gradually been fixing my feet with the healing power of podiatrist therapy.

Yesterday I met Remi from Paris. He told me to pronounce his name like, “Jeremy,” without the “Je.” Remi has walked the Camino seven times. He should get a medal. Or a Nobel Peace Prize. 

Anyway, Remi, who wants to become a Benedictine monk, told me I’m walking the Camino all wrong. I told Remi that I’ve run a number of half-marathons and even a marathon, and so I thought this would be a piece of cake. He said some things in French that I’m not sure were very polite, but then he said, “No! Walking 800 kilometers requires skill and technique just like any sport.” He commenced to show me how to use walking sticks (which I thought were just for kids and old ladies), and how to adjust my backpack if I’m going uphill versus downhill. He showed me how to improve my gait, and the way I land on my feet to reduce the pounding on the soles of my feet. He didn’t just tell me, he showed me. I mean, literally, he got up in the little cafe where we were sitting and began to demonstrate. In a cafe in downtown Indianapolis, that might have been a bit odd, but not in Boadilla, Spain, where most of the people sitting around us were other “pilgrims” intently listening in to our conversation and taking notes. You probably know where I’m going with this, don’t you? Many of us at one point probably thought, The Christian life? You bet. Give your life to Jesus, and the Christian Walk is no problem. But not too far down the road we realize that “sole” care is just as important as “soul” care. 

What do I mean? I mean that taking care of your body, mind, and emotions has a direct impact on how you take care of your soul. In other words, Jesus is not only concerned about you getting to heaven but how you walk—how you live your life here on earth. We are to “walk in a manner worthy of our calling” (Ephesians 4:1). “Look carefully then how you walk” (Ephesians 5:15). “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely” (Proverbs 10:9).

If I don’t take care of the soles of my feet, this Camino experience in not very refreshing for my soul. Hmm. Sounds a lot like life. Stay connected with others, like Remi, who can help guide you to a better Walk. Keep your feet—and the rest of you—healthy. You will find the miles pass easier, and you will have a much greater appreciation for the beautiful scenery all around you.

Buen Camino.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Sabbaticalogue Wk. 9 - Feet Prayers

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I’m sitting in a small cafe in the middle of Los Arcos, Spain. Yes, my friends, the journey has begun. For the last part of my sabbatical, I am trekking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. 31 days. 500 miles. And my feet are killing me...after only five days. But I figure that if millions of monks and “regular” people have made this pilgrimage over the past 1,000 years, surely I can, too.

One of the questions we sojourners ask each other when we sit down for the “Pilgrim Meal” at albergues (hostels) all along the way is, “What inspired you to walk the Camino?”

I’ve heard everything from, “I’m trying to figure out what to do next with my life,” to “I just like the challenge of these long hikes.” When people ask what was my motivation, I move quickly past the part of Laura and I watching the Martin Sheen movie, “The Way,” years ago and saying, “Wow. That would be fun.” And I tell people that my motivation was nothing more than wanting to connect more with God on a pilgrimage.

I’m learning that most people don’t know the true meaning of a pilgrimage.  It comes from the Latin word “peregrinus,” which means a person wandering the earth in exile searching for a spiritual homeland. That’s why the first settlers in what became the United States were called pilgrims.

On the Camino, I finished an excellent book that I read years ago, but this go-round has given me much deeper insight. It’s called “Chasing Francis,” and is about a mega-church pastor who experiences burnout (and worse) and travels to Italy to rediscover his faith and calling. In the book, author Ian Cron says, “A pilgrimage is a way of praying with your feet.”  

I can tell you from my short five-day experience, that’s true. It sounds rather obvious, but I hadn’t thought about how much time I would be alone with my thoughts for 7 to 8 hours every day where all I do is walk.

Walking slows down time. You’re not as focused on your destination as you are on the path before you. In other words, walking forces you to be present. 

So what have I been doing while I walk? I pray. I sing. I work on Scripture memory. And I talk to myself. I’ve discovered I’m not a very good conversationalist. Sorry.

But a pilgrimage is a way of praying with your feet, and my feet hurt. I wonder what that says about my prayers? Do I pray so much that I get spiritually fatigued? Not hardly.

Do you know what I pray for as I walk? I pray for you. I pray for Laura, my kids, and extended family. I pray for friends. I offer up prayers of praise, confession, and thanksgiving. And all the while I think my “feet prayers” are changing me as much as anyone else. 

So be it. Tomorrow is Day Six—another 16 miles or so, which means my feet, and my heart will be offering up a lot of prayers.

Buen Camino

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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