Pilgrim Path

This blog is the work of a seeker and poet. Walking stick in hand, I head out into the world, not of the world, but in the world. My words and my friends carry me along and light the pilgrim path of spiritual journeys.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

– John 14

Restless steps lead me afar
from ocean shore to desert hills.
Not always sure of my next step
I trust the one who leads me.

Kindred spirits along the way
feed my soul with gentle words
assuring me this path is true
that I am not alone.

Despite dark nights and troubled days
I’ll bravely walk through shadowed valleys,
confident the road continues
for I am going to the Father.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008


“So that you may be filled with the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3

Close your eyes, rest
and soon, if you watch
and listen, you will see
and hear, a grace prepared
just for you.

Pay attention, for the bugs
who crawl, the butterflies
who flit, the hummingbirds
who rapidly beat their wings,
have been placed here
just for you.

May the green alfalfa fields,
red and yellow mountains,
towering white clouds,
green trees with shimmering leaves,
illuminate your path,
so that you may be filled
with the fullness of God.


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Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Half-sleeping souls do gather
to share a chilly morning prayer,
singing chants to bless the day
and welcome a new chance.

Raspy voices on the prowl
for notes that will elude them.
But the power of heart’s intent,
earns them deep forgiveness.

Rhythmic drumming links our hearts
as now we sit in silence,
awaiting Creator’s bright morning gift
to warm expectant faces.

Glory peeks above the mesa
bringing hope to dormant dreams.
Living in the space within us
where we dare to sing.

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Monday, July 28, 2008


I sit in holy circle,
half in, half out,
half dark, half light.
Where do I belong?

Pedernal looms to the east,
shadows of rain between us,
light boldly strikes the mesa.
Where do I belong?

Searching for the empty space
where faith can change me.
If I sit and listen,
I’ll find my path home.

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Friday, July 25, 2008


Healing hummingbird,
reminder of ancestors,
drinking deeply of rich nectar
yielded by willing flowers,
sharing grace,
making us whole.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008


The workshop/retreat I attended last week was held at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico and was affiliated with the Casa del Sol, a newly formed Spirituality and Retreat Center.


Casa del Sol is called to be:

A space in which to be still and listen
for the voice of Godthat provides guidance to the spirit.

An open-hearted setting
where seekers find refreshment
and a heightened awareness of the landscape as teacher.

A spot of simplicity and beauty where the heartbeat of Ghost Ranch
is felt along with the presence
of God in all aspects of creation.

A community of all creation,
worshipping God as a prayerful center of Ghost Ranch;
an incubator in the service of God’s creation.

Celebrating Christ and Creation as one,
coming from the heart of God.


On May 3, 2006, Casa del Sol opened as a Spirituality and Retreat Center — a contemplative retreat space in the high desert of Abiquiu, New Mexico. The Rev. Dr. J. Philip Newell is committed to being the resident Companion/Theologian for the Casa del Sol Spirituality and Retreat Center at Ghost Ranch.

J. Philip Newell is a poet, a scholar and a teacher. Formerly Warden of Iona Abbey in the Western Isles of Scotland, he is currently Writer/Theologian for The Cathedral of the Isles on Cumbrae. He is internationally acclaimed for his work in the field of Celtic spirituality, including his best known titles Listening for the Heartbeat of God and his poetic book of prayer Sounds of the Eternal. He is an ordained Church of Scotland minister with a passion for ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. Canadian by birth, he lives in Edinburgh with his family where he undertook his doctoral research in Celtic Christianity. Since then he has played a leading role on both sides of the Atlantic in the re-birthing of a creation spirituality for today. His call is for a future church to return to its basic heritage of finding Christ in Creation.

Ali Newell is a Church of Scotland minister who works as a spiritual advisor for the Ignatian Center of Spirituality in Glasgow. She and Philip have four children and live in Edinburgh.

Together, they teach and hold seminars and is in residence with their family each year during the month of July. They continue to help guide Casa del Sol in listening to the deep spiritual longings of those who journey to the high desert. In this process they are helping to lay the foundation stones for a “community” in the high desert.


Ground of all being,
Mother of Life,
Father of the Universe,
your name is sacred, beyond speaking.
May we know your presence,
may your longings be our longings
in heart and in action.
May there be food for the human family today
and for the whole earth community.
Forgive us the falseness of what we have done
as we forgive those who are untrue to us.
Do not forsake us in our time of conflict
but lead us into new beginnings.
For the light of life, the vitality of life, and the glory of life
are yours now and for ever.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008


The expansive vistas of Abiquiu, New Mexico are only vivid memories now as I sit in my cubicle at work. Last week was a wonderful time of learning and reflecting and listening. To my great benefit, I had time to listen to my heart. One of the messages that came to me related to friendship – deep friendship. I am blessed with many friends. Some I speak to daily, others less frequently. But I have 2 unique friends that I thought of while I was away. I’ve known them both for only the past 2 or 3 years. In fact, they both entered my life around the same time. Here’s what makes them unique: Buck and I have only spent about 10 days in each other’s company over the length of our friendship. Hudson and I have never met face-to-face.

One thing we have in common is that we all blog. I encourage you to visit each of their blogs: Buck writes at
thedirtyshame.blogspot.com. Hudson writes at hudsonmackenzie.blogspot.com. Buck and I met (face-to-face) at a creative artist workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico about 3 years ago. Hudson and I met (online) by way of Christine (www.abbeyofthearts.com) who I met at that same workshop. Despite our continuing friendships by way of our blogs, it is not the inherent geekiness of that connection that holds us as friends. What I find in Buck and Hudson goes far deeper than the clichéd “kindred soul” label. It is probably best described by the term “anam cara” (see author John O’Donoghue) which means “soul friend.” It is no coincidence that thoughts about friendship sprang up during my time in Abiquiu. The workshop I attended was based upon Celtic Spirituality. The term “anam cara” is Celtic in origin.

Over the last 5 or 6 years, I’ve been involved in a variety of retreat and workshop activities that is known as “men’s work.” Usually occurring over the span of a weekend, men gather together and re-learn how to be men among other men. These weekends have brought me to a place where I have learned to cherish the ability to be myself in every way in the company of another man without the baggage that our culture puts on us. The result is the development of real relationships based upon an appreciation of our uniqueness and the gifts we bring to those relationships. The most cherished gift we can (and do) bring is honesty. Buck and Hudson are the two most honest people I “know.”

In the case of each man, I feel completely free to confide my shadow thoughts and fears. I share my little life victories, my doubts, my aspirations and my faith. Each of these men give me the gift of listening. This may be the closest I’ll ever get to experiencing unconditional love.

I know that some might consider this to be a sterile 21st century phenomenon that is risk-free based on the lack of personal contact. If you believe this, nothing I write will convince you otherwise. But, I know, way down deep, that type of relationship would not have continued any longer than a season. Sure, much of our contact is through reading one another’s postings on our blogs and a quick comment or two in return. I believe, however, that we read each other’s blogs within the context of the man we know, filling in a few more details along the way. But then there are times when we are compelled to write “offline” (so to speak) to go deeper. It is during those times that we become true “anam cara.” In many ways, I know these men far better than I know members of my own family. We have the courage to be ourselves and allow ourselves to be loved for who we are. That is NOT an insignificant accomplishment.

I am truly blessed.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008


SKY ABOVE CLOUDS IV, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1965


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Monday, July 21, 2008


I've returned from the desert. Time to shed the sandals and put up the walking stick.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008


I am blessed with many opportunities to enlarge my world each year. It seems many of them revolve around the state of New Mexico. Here's a glimpse of what will be my front door view next week.

I'll be attended a weeklong workshop at Ghost Ranch Conference and Retreat Center led by J. Philip and Alison Newell, former wardens of the Iona Community in Scotland.

I was blessed to have my paths cross with these 2 folks earlier this year on Sanibel Island. They were leading a Celtic weekend at the Episcopal church on the island. It was then that I learned of their association with Ghost Ranch. Each year, they spend some time in Abiquiu laying the groundwork for what they hope will eventually be an intentional desert community (Casa del Sol)organized under the principles and tenets of Celtic Spirituality.

Here is a glimpse of my upcoming week:


The Casa del Sol Prayer of Jesus expresses the vision and commitments of the young Community of Casa del Sol and its spirituality center in the high desert of New Mexico. One of the prayer’s phrases, "The glory of life is yours," speaks of the light of the Living Presence within every person and creature, and within every culture and nation. This integrated week between Casa del Sol and the Ranch will consist of meditative prayer at the beginning and end of each day of teaching and singing in the Agape Center in the mornings, of rest and silence in the afternoons, and of further song and embodiment of our week’s theme in the evenings.

Philip just recently published a new book, "Christ of the Celts," which gives a wonderful overview of Celtic Spirituality. I was fortunate enough to have discovered this book during my stay at Christ in the Desert Monastery this past May. The words
resonated so deeply with me. If you believe in a loving God who created us in his/her image abounding in truth, beauty and grounded in the earth, I urge you to check out this book.

With free afternoons next week, I hope to get in some good walking, writing and prayer and contemplation. I expect that at least one day, I'll make a trip over to visit the brothers at Christ in the Desert.

Over the years, New Mexico has become like a second home to me. They say the desert will call you if you are meant to be there. I hear the song of the desert siren. Pray for me.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008


I’ve been up one side of the ferris wheel and down the other in my search for some answers about restlessness. I’m not sure I’m any closer to resolution. But, I think I’m closer to being able to live with the word.

While my gut instinct was to eschew restlessness as a symptom of discomfort within my skin, I’m now content to live into the word. In fact, I might even begin wearing it as a badge of honor.

You see, over the past few years, I’ve found that my friendships have shifted. Give me a dollar for every friend who has exclaimed, “You’ve changed,” and I’d be a fat, happy (and restless) retiree. Interesting thing is that some of the folks spoke those words with derision. Sad to say, they don’t talk to me anymore. In some cases, it was my choice; in others, theirs. (And, my snarky self thinks we’re both better off for that.)

Then there are the folks who spoke the words, “You’ve changed,” with a smile in their voice and a backslap in their hearts. They’re the ones that realize you can’t put a string around my neck and a tail on my…well, you know…set me off to fly like a kite and then reel me in when you want.

Restlessness involves trust - perhaps pushing trust waaaaaaay beyond normal limits. If you know me, more than casually, you know that there’s a reason I’m pursuing some new direction or other. You also know that I’ll take what I learn that resonates with me, drop what feels false and continue seeking. AND, as a close friend, you also know that YOU brought something to my table as well – something valuable. You brought your light to help me see who I really am. Your friendship brought me bread and wine to nourish my soul. But, most importantly, you brought your patience to stay within my sight, even when my restlessness gets the better of me, and your loving arms to welcome me back for however long before my next pilgrim journey.

SONNET by Ella Dietz

O my belovéd, hide and rest in me,
Sleep, my belovéd, pillowed on my breast,
Sleep on the heart that aches to give thee rest,
Lulled by the murmurs of the distant sea,
The low-voiced waves, the wind's wild minstrelsy,
Lulled deep in sweet repose and slumbers blest,
Of every care and sorrow dispossessed,
On sleep's light wings we sail the ether free,
For so He giveth His beloved sleep ;
The earth forgetting, they ascend on high
And drink pure draughts from fountains clear and deep,
And find their home eternal in the sky,
Where never a weary soul doth mourn or weep,
For He doth wipe the tears from every eye.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008


The words are easier to string one after another than the thoughts. I’m still not sure where I’m going with this multi-part essay, but I hope you’ll stick with me on the journey. I am, as they say, “leaning into the questions,” perhaps more than I’ve ever done before. Introspection is not for sissies. And this consideration of restlessness is made all the more difficult by my rapidly approaching departure, yet again, for New Mexico and a workshop on Celtic Spirituality (more on that later).

Along the way, Spirit has tossed a few crumbs to nourish my weary soul and hopefully lead me down right paths. Witness:

Does discovering who you are awaken a kind of inner unrest?...If you
started accusing yourself of all that is in you, would your nights and
days be long enough?
Brother Roger of Taizé, Essential Writings

I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single
fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.
- Blaise Pascal, Pensées

It is no easy task to walk this earth and find peace. Inside of us, it would
seem, something is at odds with the very rhythm of things and we are
forever restless, dissatisfied, frustrated and aching. We are so overcharged
with desire that it is hard to come to simple rest. Desire is always stronger
than satisfaction.
Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing

These quotations aren’t making the process any easier.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008


As usual, my Seattle muse, Christine (www.abbeyofthearts.com) has managed to break through my dry spell. We'll return with the next post in the Restlessness series soon.

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I’m lucky,
you see,
I see,
the red door
we all live with.
Only thing is,
I’m no better off,
in figuring out,
to enter
or exit.

(photo taken by and used with permission of
Christine Valters Paintner. Go to www.abbeyofthearts.com
every other Monday for her Poetry Party.)

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