Category Archives: Pilgrimage

On “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age…”

To see more images of the “meanest 33 miles in history,” go to Chilkoot Trail – Image Results

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The next major feast day is Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 26. For a look at some past posts on the subject see the Notes. In the meantime I have something to be thankful for.

I just published a new E-book(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age(“Or ‘How NICE it was to travel, before COVID.’”) It’s published under my nom de plume, “James B. Ford.” The cover photo – at right – shows me in Jerusalem in May 2019, wearing a “shemagh.” Also called a keffiyeh, I got it at Ranger Joe’s in Ft. Benning before leaving for Israel. (To “blend in.”) I’m wearing it over my black Atlanta United ball cap, thus “blending in” the best of the old and new.

In the blurb I wrote for Amazon Kindle eBooks, I said this book should be timely – “in the middle of our Covid-19 pandemic” – because right now “lots of Americans can only dream about visiting such exotic locales in the future, when the crisis passes.”

I compared it to the 1920s and ‘30s, when so many Americans were fascinated by Hemingway’s books on France and Spain. (Like “The Sun Also Rises ” and “A Moveable Feast.”)

I’m guessing part of it was that back then most Americans could only DREAM of travel to such exotic places. (Like today with Covid…) Then too it may be because Hemingway gave all those exotic street names and local pubs and restaurants. Like my finding the “BEERBAZAAR,” in Jerusalem, in May 2019. Which makes me think I should have written down way more information when I was “over there.” Then I could do more what Hemingway did, vivid description. But I have something Hemingway didn’t have. GOOGLE MAPS!

Then too – aside from my May 2019 pilgrimage to Israel – the book includes chapters on hiking the Chilkoot Trail in 2016. (“Meanest 33 miles in history,” exemplified by the top photo.) Or hiking the Camino de Santiago, twice. The first time was in 2017. I met my brother in Pamplona – home of Hemingway’s Café Iruna – and together we hiked (and biked) the 450 miles to Santiago de Compostela. (He flew into Paris and hiked over the Pyrenees, but the Chilkoot Trail had cured me of any such wishes to go hiking over mountains again so soon.)

Incidentally, the last two chapters of the book are based on the last two (of three) posts I did in a companion blog: Here’s that second post on the Portuguese Camino, and “They sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal!” That “They sell beer” post was really long – “Word count 3450” – mostly because I had a lot to fit in. But, to balance things out I’ll make this post shorter.

The upshot is that I wrote about a lot of great adventures, but still had more to write about. Plus those I did cover I didn’t do full justice to. I did include one great memory from Israel:

May 28, 2019, Tel Aviv. The night before I fly home from Ben Gurion. Sitting at the bar in the basement of the Abraham Hostel, Levon St. 21. To my left, two travel buddies, Sam and Katie. Katie on my immediate left, Sam one seat over. To my right a young man who turned out to be a law student from Quebec. We got to talking, and I asked his name. He said “Silas.” So I started singing “Two was a-Paul and Silas!” Katie chimed in, “One was a little bitty baby,” then we both sang – in harmony – “Born, born, born in Bethlehem!”

(That was part of the chorus from “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.” As I wrote in the book, “for a kick-ass a cappella version, see the one by Little Big Town.)

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There’s more on all that later, but first a couple production notes on the E-book. First off, you’ll notice that on page 6 of the Introduction – right after the paragraph beginning “May 28, 2019, Tel Aviv” – the line spacing goes all kerflooey. From justified it goes to non-justified text, and the line spacing gets wider. It goes back to normal for the next one-line paragraph – “Then the COVID hit” – but the text stays non-justified through near the  middle of the next page. (It says page 6 again; there are apparently two “page 6’s.”) Then it goes back to justified text.

I tried correcting it, uploading a second and ostensibly-corrected Word document, but it stayed the same, kerflooey for a page or two. Another note: I had the “Observations” at the end of many chapters in italics and non-justified, as well as the notes at the end of the book. The program made all those justified type. And for the paperback version the publishing program required a minimum of 100 pages, so I had to add four pages to the original 96.

So I’ll try to upload a corrected version, with the additional four pages and with a proper note at the very end as to where to buy a paperback version. I’ll let you know how it goes…

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Meanwhile, back to the subject of the book not doing justice to all my adventures…

For one example, as to the Portuguese Camino hike: I only got “us” as far as the Casa Límia in Ponte de Lima. That’s only about a third of the way up to Santiago de Compostela. Then too I could only provide limited coverage of my pilgrimage to Israel, which I last covered in This time last year – in Jerusalem, in May 2020. And by the way, that post has a lot of those “image may contain” boxes, that used to be pictures I posted, to make the posts more interesting. And which in turn is a problem I address in the book. And that’s why I now use lead captions like “To see more images of the ‘meanest 33 miles in history,’ go to Chilkoot Trail – Image Results.” That makes it much easier to transmogrify these blog-posts into future picture-less book chapters.

And about that Jerusalem trip. I described the Leonardo Moria Hotel, a short walk from St. George’s Pilgrim Guest House, with a lounge sometimes functioning as a piano bar. (Once even having a yarmulke-topped pianist playing the Chicken Dance.) That turned out to be a favorite watering hole, not just for me but eventually many of my fellow pilgrims at St. George’s. (One night, for a birthday, “we” had 17 pilgrims there. I should have gotten a commission…)

So one point of this “limited coverage” is that in the future I’ll have to do at least one Sequel. (Tentatively titled “(More of) My Adventures in Old Age.”) In it I hope to add more oversea-travel adventures, including a return to St. George’s in Jerusalem. (Once we kick COVID’s ass.)

Stay tuned!!!

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The upper image is courtesy of Chilkoot Trail – Image Results. See also Explore the Chilkoot Trail – Klondike Gold Rush. The lower image is courtesy of St George’s College Jerusalem – Image Results

Re: Past posts on Thanksgiving. See On the first Thanksgiving – Part I and Part II, On Thanksgiving 2015, On Thanksgiving – 2016, On Thanksgiving – 2017, and On Thanksgiving 2019. (Did I skip 2018?)

On Mary Magdalene, 2020 – and Week 19 of “the Covid…”

I just got back from 4 days’ canoeing on the Missouri River – and no, the river wasn’t this low…

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As the photo-caption above says, I just returned from a 4-day canoe trip on the Missouri River – 115 river miles, from South Sioux City to Omaha Nebraska. (Two weeks in all – three days’ drive out, four days back, the rest setting up or packing up.) Specifically, I got back last Friday, July 17.

And my last post was on June 20, Remembering Monday, May 18, 1992. (Including the image at right, it talked about the day I did my first Daily Office (Bible) Reading, on May 18, 1992.)

Which all means that I haven’t done a lot of posting lately on liturgical seasons or feast days. And on that note, the feast day for Mary Magdalene was Wednesday, July 22.

I’ve done a number of posts on this Mary “Maudlin,” including last year’s On Mary Magdalene – and all those “rules and regulations.” Also, On Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents(from 2018), 2015’s On Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the Apostles,” and – from 2017 – On Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints. (I.e., Mary’s Feast Day – July 22 – is followed by this particular James’ Feast Day, July 25.)

Last year’s post emphasized one indisputable: That Mary Magdalene showed way more courage and faith than the 11 male disciples, when push came to shove. Which is why St. Augustine called her the “Apostle to the Apostles.” See also Mary of Magdala | FutureChurch:

Mary of Magdala is perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood figure in early Christianity…  Since the fourth century, she has been portrayed as a prostitute and public sinner…   Paintings, some little more than pious pornography, reinforce the mistaken belief that sexuality, especially female sexuality, is shameful, sinful, and worthy of repentance.  Yet the actual biblical account of Mary of Magdala paints a far different portrait than that of the bare-breasted reformed harlot of Renaissance art.

In turn that 2019 post cited 2018’s Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents.” That was an early post exploring the idea of conservative Christians “playing it too safe.” That is, choosing not to explore the “rich tapestry of life.” That led me to conclude that “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.’” (“It’s an oxymoron.”) Then too, that rules and regulations post brought up a standard conservative – and sometimes “Conservative Christian” – rant, that “all immigrants must follow all the rules and regulations.” 

On that note, the post pointed out that Jesus – by His own admission – came into the world to save sinners, not those who blindly “follow all the rules and regulations.” (Mark 2:17, and 1st Timothy 1:15.) Which certainly applied to Mary, that “bare-breasted reformed harlot.”

Which brings up “the letter versus the spirit of the law.” That is, the “idiomatic antithesis” about those who “obey the letter of the law but not its spirit.” In a sentence, “Intentionally following the letter of the law but not the spirit” can be done by “exploiting technicalitiesloopholes, and ambiguous language.” And it’s based on 2d Corinthians 3:6, “This” – the Gospel of Jesus – “is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.” That is, life in abundance. (John 10:10.)  

Which all leads us to July 25, the Feast Day for James, son of Zebedee. He’s one of several “James” in the New Testament, but this James is also called “St. James the Greater.” And incidentally, this St. James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. (Seen at left. See also Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints.)

And speaking of pilgrimages – like my recent one down the Missouri River – see also the September 2016 post On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts: “The point being that I’ve gone on a few pilgrimages in my time, and am fixing to go on another one this September.” September 2017 that is. That year my Adventurous Brother and I hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. (The French Way. Also, in the Sluts post, I noted that in the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to “the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.”)

The post also said a pilgrimage can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.  Which happened on 2016’s Chilkoot Trail hike:

For my part, I certainly felt “chastened” after we got back to Skagway from the Chilkoot Trail.(Although the 10-of-12 beers that my nephew and I shared – of the two six-packs I bought – helped a lot too.)  And I had a blister-on-a-blister that got infected – that didn’t fully heal until three weeks after the hike – to further heighten the feeling of getting “chastened.”

So this post celebrates both Mary Magdalene, as “the Apostle to the Apostles,” and St. James as the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. And speaking of pilgrimages, they can also be a way to “escape a plague.” Or at least get away from it for four days or so. (But see also A Pilgrimage during the time of the Black Plague, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

Meanwhile, we always have “the Risen Christ” to fall back on…

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 Mary Magdalene – first to see the Risen Christ – thus Apostle to the Apostles…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Lower Missouri River – Image Results. “The image was accompanied by a 2012 article from the Sioux City Journal, about how the low water level – eight years ago – could hurt boating and tourism.” I borrowed the image from a post on my companion blog, On my “new” Missouri River canoe trip, from July 5, 2020. That post was a preview, and I’ll be writing a postmortem – not literally – in a future post. As in an analysis or study of a recently completed event. The caption for the photo originally said, “I just heard the Lower Missouri River near Sioux City was pretty low. Could it be this bad?” Quick answer: It wasn’t.  

As to “Week 19 of ‘the Covid'” in the post title, see On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. There I explained that, to me, “the pandemic hit full swing – the ‘stuff really hit the fan’ – back on Thursday, March 12,” when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, along with other major sports. “So my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15 and ending on Saturday the 21st.”

Re: Pilgrimage to escape plague. See for example, “Flight of the townspeople into the country to escape from the Plague, 1630,” seen below, courtesy of Pilgrimage Escape Plagues – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of Rembrandt – The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen. (It’s the lead image in Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents.“)  See also On Easter Season – AND BEYOND.  The full caption: “The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen, by Rembrandt (1638).”  And speaking of “racy,” the artist Titian did two versions of Mary crying.  For the “racier” – 1533 – version see Penitent Magdalene (Titian, 1533) – Wikipedia.

The Penitent Magdalene is a 1565 oil painting by Titian of saint Mary Magdalene, now in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.  Unlike his 1533 version of the same subject, Titian has covered Mary’s nudity and introduced a vase, an open book and a skull as a memento mori.  Its coloring is more mature than the earlier work, using colors harmoni[z]ing with character.  In the background the sky is bathed in the rays of the setting sun, with a dark rock contrasting with the brightly lit figure of Mary.

For more on this “Mary,” see On Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints, and also MARY MAGDALENE, Bible Woman: first witness to Resurrection, and What Did Mary Magdalene look like?

“As a spiritual exercise…”

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As a Spiritual Exercise, back in 1989 I started looking for new ways to “help” my favorite college team – Florida State University – win its first football national championship… (The image at right shows the 1524 book, Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. I just used a different method.)

At first it was a matter of finding the right ritual sacrifice, in the form of exercise, and especially aerobics. (Initially a series of wind sprints over a 3-mile course; the goal was to finish the three miles in an ever-faster speed.)

It was only later – in the spring of 1992 – that I added the discipline of Daily Bible Reading. And just as an aside, during that next football season – in the fall of 1993, and after much drama, with twists and turns of fate – the Noles squeaked by Nebraska to win that first national title. (In a game they were expected to win easily.)

In the 27-plus years that followed – 30-plus, if you go back to 1989 – FSU football won two more national titles. (For a more complete listing of such “wins,” see On my “mission from God,” and “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, including the image at left.) But there have been a number of heart-breaks as well, including losing the national-title game at the end of the 1996 season. (To our arch-rival Gators, no less.) And the past two seasons have been especially bad, with the Noles suffering back-to-back losing seasons.

On the other hand I’ve learned a lot of valuable spiritual lessons along the way.

Then too, this “spiritual exercise” has given me lots of insight into how the original Children of Israel must have felt when they did all the right things – and yet ended up conquered and sent into exile. (The functional equivalent of having back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in a dog’s years? And especially after establishing a 14-year college football dynasty?)

What brings all that to mind is the recent series of Daily Office Old Testament readings. Those recent Daily Office readings reminded me of all the twists and turns, the add-ons and “do not do” list of things that thwarted spiritual progress for Moses. And for his success on the field.

For example, that recent string of Daily Bible readings had a set rules and regulations – starting with Leviticus 8:1-13,30-36 – back on Sunday, May 10 (2020). And they’ve have been jumping around ever since. (After starting at Chapter 8 – and after leaving Exodus 40, 18 to 38, on Saturday the 9th – they jumped from 16 to 19 to 23, and so on, “to this day.” Exodus 40, for example, goes into great detail on “Setting Up the Tabernacle.”)

The point is that – over the past 30-plus years – I too have gleaned a number of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.” (Not unlike those of Moses, set out in Leviticus.) Rules like “Thou shalt not listen to Panzerlied* on your iPod Shuffle in the days leading up to a game.” Or “thou shalt listen to ‘We Are the Champions‘ whenever it comes up, on your Shuffle or the radio.” (Because it brings good karma.) Also, “Thou shalt have thy monthly church-tithe check in the office safe before a game starts, at or near the first of the month.” And so on… Of course those rules haven’t guaranteed success, but neither did Moses’ rules and regulations, listed in Leviticus over the past weeks in the Daily Office.

So just like Moses – and especially like those who tried to follow his rules “to the letter” – for the past 31 years or so, I’ve been “working with God,” trying to get Him to help my teams win. But again, it hasn’t always worked out. And so you could easily say there have been far more disappointments and heartbreaks. On the other hand, by combining my Ritual Sacrifice with Daily Bible reading, I’ve learned some valuable spiritual lessons.

For one thing – again – I’ve experienced how those early Hebrews must have felt, when they thought they’d done everything right. But then – for whatever inexplicable reason – they were disappointed if not shocked by how bad things turned out. I’m sure they felt like saying to God, “You OWE me. I did everything You asked, and this is how you treat me?”

But along the way I’ve also learned – based on my own experience – that there was and is some kind of causality at work. That is, there was and is some mysterious “Force” out there which (or Who) responded to my prayers and sacrifice, ritual or otherwise. Though many times not in the way I expected…

Another thing I’ve learned – over the past 31 years, and a host of both disappointments and triumphs. I’ve become convinced – by and through my day to day interactions with this “Force” – that the “factual accuracy” of the Bible is pretty much irrelevant to an advanced Christian faith. That is, to me, it doesn’t seem to matter if a so-called expert says he’s found the actual ark used by Noah somewhere in Turkey.

Or whether Jesus feeding the 5,000 is just a miracle, “taken only on faith,” or a parable whose lesson is that if we followed the example of Jesus, we could end world hunger “tomorrow.”

What matters is what you do with your faith and your life. What matters is how you follow the Bible, and in doing so follow the example of Jesus. And for that matter His disciples (including Paul, that “Johnny come lately” who wrote like a lawyer, with so many lawyer-like convolutions).

In other words if you work with this kind of “canary in a coal mine” spiritual exercise, you could end up with all the proof you need: That there is a God, and that “He” is willing to work with you, and that somewhere along the line, there’s a “happy ending…” And it can all come by and through the “spiritual discipline” of daily Bible reading, combined with your own version of a “canary-slash-coal-mine” way of keeping on the straight and narrow.

And incidentally (on a related note), next Thursday, May 21, is Ascension Day. For more on that feast day see 2014’s On Ascension Day and subsequent posts listed in the notes.

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The upper image is courtesy of Spiritual Exercise – Image Results. Also, the image to the right of the first full paragraph refers to the “Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola (Latin original: Exercitia spiritualia),” with the caption, “Exercitia spiritualia, 1548 First Edition by Antonio Bladio (Rome).”

A note on the post title. It’s similar in style to a Papal bull, that is, it’s “first few words of the text,” the incipit, i.e., “the first few Latin words from which the bull took its title for record keeping purposes, but which might not be directly indicative of the bull’s purpose.” See Wikipedia.

Re: Panzerlied. I first heard it in a 1965 film, see Battle of the Bulge (film) – Wikipedia. It’s a rousing song that goes well with road trips or picking up trash in a diesel-powered golf cart for the local branch of Keep America Beautiful. Unfortunately it has negative connotations having to do with the murder of “Jews, gypsies and fairies.” For more on the song see Wikipedia, or for a live version Panzerlied (Battle of the Bulge with english intro) – YouTube. For more on “Jews, gypsies and fairies,” see Slaughterhouse-Five Quotes | Shmoop: “The British had no way of knowing it, but the candles and the soap were made from the fat of rendered Jews and Gypsies and fairies and communists, and other enemies of the State. (5.14.4).”

See Thou Shalt Not – Image Results. And Thou Shalt Not (musical) – Wikipedia.

The causality image is courtesy of Causality – Image Results.

Re: Ascension Day. See also On Ascension Day 2015, Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016, and Ascension Day 2017 – “Then He opened their minds.”

The lower image is courtesy of Canary Coal Mine – Image Results. This particular image accompanied an article, “Idioms in the news: Canary in the Coal Mine[,] ShareAmerica,” from November 2014: “Someone/something that is an early warning of danger.” An earlier image – “now defunct,” since the original post – was accompanied by an article, “I am the canary in the coal mine,” which also explained the idiom:

The tradition at that time – to foretell the toxic environment down in the [coal] mine – was for the miners to take a canary down with them on their daily journey… The canary is very susceptible to the toxic gases that were common in the mines, and would die when the gases were at a toxic level – signaling to the miners that they had to immediately exit.

See also canary in a coal mine – Wiktionary, about a thing sensitive to adverse conditions, which “makes it a useful early indicator of such conditions; something which warns of the coming of greater danger or trouble by a deterioration in its health or welfare.”

In my case, if I was doing something wrong in my daily life, a loss by FSU or “another team of mine” would indicate the need to stop doing that! (Not unlike the old Henny Youngman joke, where a patient says, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” To which the doctor replies, “Then don’t do that!” See Henry Youngman Jokes – Henry Youngman One Liners Jokes.)

My recent Utah trip – and “3 Wise Guys…”

The Adoration of the Magi, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo – as it relates to Epiphany. . .

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Grand Island, Nebraska.

I haven’t posted anything since December 5, “last year.” One reason? This past December 27 I got in my car and drove 1,800 miles out west, “in the bleak midwinter.” (As illustrated at right. A truck stop in Grand Island Nebraska, snowed in on December 29.)

I drove out to visit my brother in Utah, and his wife. (My “hiking buddies” on the Portuguese Camino. See Just got back – Portuguese Camino!) Their son and daughter also came out – from Back East – along with my new (as of June 2018) “nephew by marriage.” (See On a wedding in Hadley – and John, Peter and Paul.)

It was a great trip and I’ll be writing more about it in later posts. But in the meantime, I need to get back to some of the themes of this post: Like reading and studying the Bible to get closer to God. And – on that note – paying more attention to Feast days.

The most recent feast day was Epiphany, celebrated back on Monday, January 6. Some previous posts on the subject include Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!” Then came last year’s Happy Epiphany – 2018.

To start off, the “3 wise guys” post explained how the Adoration of the Magi – illustrated by the painting at the top of the page – fits in with all this “Epiphany” stuff. We know the full story better from the hymn, We Three Kings (of Orient Are). Which hymn in turn celebrates…

… the Nativity of Jesus in art in which the three Magi, represented as kings, especially in the West, having found Jesus by following a star, lay before him gifts of goldfrankincense, and myrrh, and worship him. It is related in the Bible by Matthew 2:11

And as noted, the event is remembered as the Feast of Epiphany (January 6).

The “3 wise guys” post gave some further details, like theories on the actual names of the three wise men (three kings), and a fuller, more earthy explanation of circumcision:

On January 1st, we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ… Every Jewish boy was circumcised (and formally named) on the eighth day of his life, and so, one week after Christmas, we celebrate the occasion when Our Lord first shed His blood for us. (E.A.)

The post also noted that because we are “more squeamish than our ancestors,” modern church calendars usually list January 1 – “eight days*” after December 25 – as the “Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.” And finally, it noted the practice of circumcision can be traced back as far as the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which described “the sun god Ra as having circumcised himself.” (Thus making him “One Tough Monkey!”)

But enough about circumcision. (Including the circumcision knife above left, “from the Congo; wood, iron; late 19th/early 20th century.”) The point is that January 6 – the Feast of Epiphany – “celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.” But that day goes by other names as well. It’s also known as the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  (And just to confuse things, the evening of January 5 is known as Twelfth Night.) Yet a third name for January 6 is Three Kings Day.

As discussed above…

But the end of an old year and beginning of a New Year is also a time to recall the events of that past year gone by, and 2019 was definitely a year of pilgrimage for me. Like my trip last May to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. (See “On to Jerusalem, On my first full day in Jerusalem, or type in “Jerusalem” in the search box above right.)

Or my September trip to hike 160 miles the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago, from Porto to Santiago. (Type “Portugal” in the search box.) But my most recent pilgrimage was a 15-day drive out to and back from my brother’s house in Utah.

Which included getting snowed in at a Motel 6 in Grand Island, Nebraska, with a view of the near-frozen North Platte River from my motel-room window, as shown below. But it also included a great burger and two draft beers at the Thunder Road Grill at the truck stop next door. (As shown in the notes.) So the way I figure, “there’s some kind of lesson there!

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The upper image is courtesy of Epiphany (holiday) – Wikipedia.  The full caption: “Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 17th century.”

Re: “‘Eight days’ after December 25.” Today we would begin the eight-day count the day after December 25, which would make January 1 the seventh day after 12/25. But in Jesus’ time the Hebrews would have included December 25 in the eight-day count.

The Motel 6 in question was at 7301 Bosselman Ave, Grand Island, NE. The full link to the “Thunder Road” website is Thunder Road Grill | Pizza, Wings & Burgers | Grand Island, NE.

As for the “lesson there,” see Ecclesiastes 8:15, “I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.” Or Psalm 104:15, on wine (or beer) “to gladden the heart.” In other words, if you’re stuck next door to a snowed-in Nebraska truck stop, you might as well enjoy a burger and beer(s), especially if you can do laundry at the same time.

I took the “Grand Island” photos, including the one above right, of my glasses on the bar next to a half-empty glass of draft beer. The circumcision-knife image is courtesy of Circumcision – Wikipedia.

A delayed “If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem…”

By the Waters of Babylon, Hebrew exiles vowed never to “forget thee, O Jerusalem…”

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I just reviewed some “posts to be done” from a few months ago – and ran across this. As noted in the first ‘graf, it’s from the first week of last May. (I was about to fly to Israel for three weeks.) But I didn’t publish it then, so I’ll do that now. Accordingly, here’s that first pre-look at my planned Israel trip, and Psalm 137, “the middle of the Bible.”

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As told in “On to Jerusalem,” this upcoming May 10th I’m flying to Jerusalem for a two-week pilgrimage (As part of a local church group venture.)  To that end, I’ve been listening to some lectures-on-CD, The World of Biblical Israel | The Great Courses Plus.

On a related note, I connected to a Jerusalem Post article, If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem:

There is an almost natural magnetic draw to Jerusalem that stirs within us a special emotion. For millions of people around the world the heart of ancient Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, symbolizes spirituality and mysticism, a place of prayer and miracles, the centre of the world and a holy portal to God.

Note the “spirituality and mysticism” part, which mirrors one frequent theme of this blog.  The point is:  That title in the Jerusalem Post article refers to Psalm 137:5-6, which reads  “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”  (That’s from the King James Version. You know, the one God uses?)  

Which just happened to tie in with the Biblical Israel course, as described below.

See for example Psalm 137 – Wikipedia, describing “Nebuchadnezzar II‘s successful siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC.” One result? The people of Judah ended up “deported to Babylonia, where they were held captive until some time after the Fall of Babylon (539 BC):”

In English it [Psalm 137] is generally known as “By the rivers of Babylon,” which is how its first words are translated in the King James Version…  The psalm is a communal lament about being in exile after the Babylonian captivity, and yearning for Jerusalem.  The psalm is a regular part of JewishEastern OrthodoxCatholicAnglican and Protestant liturgies.  It has been set to music often, and was paraphrased in hymns.

So anyway, Professor Chapman focused first on Psalm 137 as the story of how that Hebrew Remnant – those Exiles – created the final version of what we know as the Old Testament.

That is, the Old Testament – as we know it today – did not exist before the year 586 B.C. Again, that was the year most Judeans were taken from their homeland – after the horrors of the Babylonian conquest – and suffered a “death march,” 800 miles to Babylon.  “After this defeat, they compiled, edited and shaped” their collected national stories into a virtual library.

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Psalm 137 in the Eadwine Psalter (12th century)

And again, according to Professor Chapman, Psalm 137 (at right) constitutes both the mid-point – the very middle – of years of Ancient Jewish history and the very middle of the Bible itself. 

In turn Psalm 137 was written at just the time when the books of the original Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament – were collected, edited and redacted.  And it all came to be because of the Exile, that “national disgrace.”

In other words, before the calamity of the Exile, many books (in the form of scrolls) existed, but “here is where they were first collected into what we know as the Old Testament today.” That idea was mirrored in the Babylon captivity link at Psalm 137:

This period saw … the emergence of the central role of the Torah in Jewish life.  According to many historical-critical scholars, the Torah was redacted during this time, and began to be regarded as the authoritative text for Jews.  This period saw their transformation into an ethno-religious group who could survive without a central Temple.

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Which is about as far as I got: The story of how the Old Testament as we known it finally came into being. And it might never have occurred but for this humiliating “national disgrace” for the Children of Israel. (On that note see The Blessings of Trials –

But in the meantime we’ve moved on to the Season of Advent. See 2016’s On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent, and On Advent – 2015, which described the Season of Advent:

Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  The theme of Bible readings is to prepare for the Second Coming while “commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas.”

And it should be noted that in some of the readings for the Season of Advent, Jesus tells the Parable of the Budding Fig Tree.  (Not to be confused with the barren fig tree):

“Look at the fig tree and all the trees;  as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near…”

In doing so Jesus quoted Isaiah – twice – as well as the Book of Daniel.  See also Jesus and messianic prophecy.  The main point Jesus was trying to make?  “Beware, keep alert;  for you do not know when the time will come.”  And also, “What I say to you I say to all:  Keep awake.”

Which is pretty much what the Season of Advent is all about…

And that “High Holy Season” always starts with the Feast of  St. Andrew – “the First Apostle.” That posts and others cited in it noted that while Andrew was “one of the four disciples closest to Jesus,” he seems to be the least known about. Which is ironic because Andrew was one of Jesus’ the first followers. In fact he “followed Jesus before St. Peter and the others,” and so he is “called the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle.” 

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 St. Andrew, “the First Apostle,” and his x-shaped cross or saltire*

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The upper image is courtesy of Psalm 137 – Wikipedia. The caption: “‘By the Waters of Babylon,’ painting by Arthur Hackerc. 1888.”

The lower image is courtesy of and share, which included the full text of St. Andrew’s words before he died, showing “a very profound Christian spirituality.  [He] does not view the Cross as an instrument of torture but rather as the incomparable means for perfect configuration to the Redeemer, to the grain of wheat that fell into the earth.  Here we have a very important lesson to learn: Our own crosses acquire value if we consider them and accept them as a part of the Cross of Christ…”  See also Andrew the Apostle – Wikipedia.

About that “saltire” see St Andrew … 5 facts you might have known:

Legend has it that he [Andrew] asked to be tied to an X-shaped cross because he did not feel worthy of dying on the same shape of cross as Jesus.  The shape has been represented by the white cross on the Scottish flag, the Saltire, since at least 1385.

As to the Feast of St. Andrew beginning the new church year, see Anticipating Christmas, Beginning with Saint Andrew.  Or see St. Andrew, from the Satucket website:

Just as Andrew was the first of the Apostles, so his feast is taken in the West to be the beginning of the Church Year…  The First Sunday of Advent is defined to be the Sunday on or nearest his feast (although it could equivalently be defined as the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day).

On Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal

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A beach-view, northwest of Porto, along the coastal alternative to the Camino de Santiago …

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

It’s been a month since I got back from last September’s 160-mile, 19-day hike on the Camino de Santiago that runs through Portugal. See Just got back – Portuguese Camino! Which means it’s time to start moving on from that pilgrimage and back to this blog’s main themes.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoorBut first, a tip of the hat to the lovely ladies of Portugal, including the one at the top of the page. (Via telephoto on our first day’s hike, from Porto up the 10.8 miles to Cabo do Mundo.) And to the lady Camino hikers we saw going out of Porto Itself, as shown at right. (Which just goes to show that a true pilgrimage doesn’t have to be all “raw experience … hunger, cold and lack of sleep.” See “I pity the fool!” From March 2015.)

Which brings us to the more recent Feast Days this October. For instance, the October 18 just passed was the Feast Day of St. Luke. For starters, you can see more on him in 2014’s On St. Luke – physician, historian, artist, or On St. Luke – 20. (Or – from 2018 – On Luke and the “rich young man.”) Then too Wednesday, October 23 is the Feast Day for James, brother of Jesus.

About which there seems to be some confusion, not least of all on my part. He’s sometimes confused with James, the son of Zebedee, also called James the Greater, “to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus (James the Less) and James the brother of Jesus,” also known as “James the Just.”

See On St. James (“10/23”) – and the 7 blind men, which clarifies some of that confusion on my part. (When I confused “Brother of Jesus” with “St. James the Greater,” whose feast day is July 25.) And among other things, James the Greater is considered the “patron saint of pilgrims.”

Saint James the Just.jpgWhich would have brought us back to the topic of such pilgrimages, if this James had been “the Greater.” As for the confusion, see The Men Named James in the New Testament – Agape Bible Study. That site listed the following men named James in the New Testament:  1) James the son of Zebedee and brother of the Apostle St. John (James the Greater);  2) James the “brother” of Jesus (whose Feast Day is October 23);  3) the Apostle James, “son of Alphaeus;”  and 4) James, the father of the Apostle Jude. Other sources indicate there were as many as six “Jameses” in the Bible.

So anyway, this “October 23″ James is considered the author of the Epistle of James. (He’s portrayed in the icon above left.) Other books – the Pauline epistles and Acts of the Apostles  – show him as key to the Christians of Jerusalem.

When Paul arrives in Jerusalem to deliver the money he raised for the faithful there, it is to James that he speaks, and it is James who insists that Paul ritually cleanse himself at Herod’s Temple to prove his faith…  Paul describes James as being one of the persons to whom the risen Christ showed himself … and in Galatians 2:9 Paul lists James with Cephas (better known as Peter) and John the Apostle as the three “pillars” of the Church.

There’s also confusion on how he died. “According to Josephus James was stoned to death by Ananus ben Ananus.”  But “Clement of Alexandria relates that ‘James was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club.’” Either way, he was important.

Then there’s St. Luke, from last October 18. On that note, I’ve written before on Bible study as a great way to “develop your talents.” See for example December 2015’s Develop your talents with Bible study. Which brings us back to Luke the Evangelist.

The noted Catholic writer Garry Wills – in his book What the Gospels Meant – noted that Luke wrote the longest of the four Gospels.  He added that Acts of the Apostles is almost as long, and that these two of Luke’s books together “thus make up a quarter of the New Testament.”  (And they’re longer than all 13 of Paul’s letters.)  He said Luke is rightly considered the most humane of the Gospel writers, and quoted Dante as saying Luke was a “describer of Christ’s kindness.”

Thus Luke’s Gospel was – to Wills and many others – the most beautiful book that ever was.” Which means Luke’s version of the Jesus story is one we should pay special attention to.  And especially to being “humane” and active practitioners of “Christ’s kindness.”

We could use a lot more of that Christian kindness these days…

But – again speaking of developing your talents – Luke wasn’t just a great writer.  He was also – according to tradition – an artist of note.  Beyond that he was said to be the first icon painter, and to have painted the Virgin Mary and Child, as shown in the image below.

So here’s to Luke as a prime example of Scripture-study to develop your talents.

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File:Maarten van Heemskerck - St Luke Painting the Virgin and Child - WGA11299.jpg

“Saint Luke painting the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child…” 

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As indicated in Just got back – Portuguese Camino, I took the photos of the ladies in Portugal.

The lower image is courtesy of File: Maarten van Heemskerck – St Luke Painting the Virgin, and/or “Wikimedia.”  See also Maarten van Heemskerck – Wikipedia, which noted that the artist (1498-1574) was a “Dutch portrait and religious painter, who spent most of his career in Haarlem,” and did the painting above in or about 1532.

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.   As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.   Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “” 

Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

Just got back – Portuguese Camino!

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I just flew back from Lisbon in Portugal. “And, boy, are my arms tired!” But seriously, I did just finish a 160-mile hike on the Portuguese Camino. I flew to Lisbon on August 28 and flew back on September 25, and so technically was gone a full month.

I greatly enjoyed the local Iberian beers, including Mahou, Cruzcampo, Sagres and Super Bock. See Beer in Portugal – Wikipedia, noting the “long history, going as far back as the time of the ancient Roman province of Lusitania, where beer was commonly made and drunk.”

My Utah brother, sister-in-law and I started in Porto, then hiked “back” up to Santiago to Compostela – again. (My brother and I hiked the Camino Frances in 2017, and so came in to Santiago from the east, not the south, like this time.) I wrote about that then-upcoming pilgrimage last August 2d, in St. James – and “my next great pilgrimage.”

In 2017 … my Utah brother and I hiked (and biked) the most popular “Camino,” the French Way… But a month from now – September 2, 2019 – my brother and I will start hiking the 140 or so miles, from Porto “back” up to Santiago.  Via the Portuguese Way, and this time we’ll be joined by my Utah sister-in-law.

But first a note. While in Portugal – then Spain – I posted pictures on Facebook. They were pictures I took with the same $50 tablet I used on the Camino Frances in 2017.

But this time I also took a lot of pictures with a Canon camera that was much easier to operate. And on getting home I promptly cut down the number of “Canon” Camino pictures to 591. So I’ll do some future posts featuring pictures from my Canon camera. (Some of which are a lot more spontaneous – interesting – than the tablet.) But getting back to that $50 tablet… (But see the notes on putting those pictures in a post.)

Posting pictures on Facebook with it wasn’t too bad, but writing commentary was a real pain. For one thing I seem to have fat thumbs. For another, the tablet had “autocorrect,” which had a serious problem with foreign names. It kept changing the “de” or “do” in a lot of Portuguese names to “Dr.” Every time. See also another example in an early post from Portugal:

Good morning from Cabo do Mundo. (BTW, autocorrect is having a hissy with these Portuguese names, plus my colloquialisms.) Ready for another 10 mile hike. Slept through the night. “Cozy quarters.”

Which brings up an early-on collection of “estampas.” The photo at right shows the stamps in my credencial as of September 6, four days into the hike. The “cozy quarters” note referred to our first night’s lodging on the hike. (A tiny two-rooms and a kitchen place, where my brother and I shared the “parlor.”)

That came after this post: “First day’s hike is history. West through Porto – with shady spots and sidewalk cafes – and out to the coast. Then north. Made Cabo do Mundo, 10.8 miles. Nothing too sore. Good first hike.”

That last referred to the first day’s hike. Nice thought, but it turned out to be misleading.

I learned it’s not the first day – or even three – of hiking that wears on your feet. It’s the pounding from day after day hiking with a 15-pound pack. And it’s my humble opinion there’s no way to train in advance for that – except to do the same constant hiking at home, day after day. A long hike once or twice a week won’t do it. It’ll help, but you’ll still have to go through the agony of getting your feet accustomed to the constant pounding. Day after day.

Another note. Remember how we used to peel our skin off after a bad sunburn? Back in the old days, when we were young and before today’s fancy-schmancy creams and lotions that prevent such peeling?  Something like that happened to the soles of my feet once I got home. By the time we reached Santiago the soles of my feet were like shoe-leather, tough, blister-over-healed-blister and callused. (Or “cayused,” as one cute Farmacia lady said.*)

But then in the week or so since I’ve been home, I’ve peeled off several layers of tough, leathery skin. Apparently the affected parts of the body – like the soles of your feet – also go through a process of “decompressing,” just like you do mentally after such an adventure.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First some notes I made after getting to my hotel in Lisbon.

It came after another red-eye flight, just like the one I made to Tel Aviv and Israel last May. And one thing I learned early on in the trip was that the internet lied about cheap Portuguese taxis. (Bonjour!)  Instead of the four-Euro ride to my hotel like I’d been led to believe, it was more like 15 Euros. Which wasn’t that bad, for one ride anyway. But luckily I got hooked up with the Metro.

I took the Red Line from the Aeroporto and got off at Saldanha station. My “Hotel Alif” was right across from Campo Pequeno. It’s a famous bull ring togged out like one of our football stadiums, but with lots of restaurants open on weekdays. (That first day I got yelled at for cutting through one restaurant, getting acquainted with the area. Then the next night I went back for dinner and got served by the same waiter.)  Next day – Friday, August 30 – I did some touristy stuff, including a visit to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (“Monument to the Discoveries”).

It was a lifelong dream. (Or at least since 1979, when I made my first trip to Europe and couldn’t make it to Lisbon.) For a nominal fee I took the elevator to the observation tower, where I met three young ladies from Australia. (I could understand what they were saying, mostly…) Also the Museu de Marinha, a few blocks up from the Monument. (After stopping to enjoy a “Sagres.”)

On Saturday, the 31st, I took a train up to Porto, met up with brother and sister-in-law, and spent a day sightseeing, before heading out. And now for some flavor of that first-day hike:

We hiked west along the Douro River, along the Porto side, then hit the Atlantic Ocean and swung north. It’s the lesser traveled scenic alternative for the Camino Portuguese. Lots of beachside resorts, bathing beauties, and of course some old pot-bellied guys in speedos.

So again, I’ll be doing more posts in the future on this adventure. But in the meantime there are the main themes of this blog. Like the Liturgical year‘s Feast Days. The most recent Feast Day was St. Michael and All Angels, on September 30. For more on that feast day see On “St. Michael and All Angels.” And while I hiked the Camino in September there were two other Feast Days. For more on those and St. Michael see On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel.” (Holy Cross Day, 9/1419, and St. Matthew, 9/21/19.)

But in closing, here’s a camera-photo from the first day’s hike out of Porto. I’m always interested in my fellow peregrinos, including how they adjust their packs. Then too, in a future post I’ll include more camera shots of some not-so-typical scenes on the “Coastal” alternative…

[The photo showed two young lady hikers, one adjusting the other’s pack.]

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I took a bunch of photos for this post, but when I reviewed it in October 2020 – for an upcoming book – the photos were gone. So, I’ve written around them .

Re:  “Cayused.” It happened first thing one morning on the hike. We stopped at a Farmacia, as my sister-in-law wanted something like Band-aids for her blisters. She looked at one brand in Portuguese, but the lovely clerk said “those are not for blisters, they are for – how you say? – cayuses.” Which is how the Portuguese pronounce “calluses.” It was very cute, and very memorable…

St. Mary, “Virgin,” and more on Jerusalem…

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Mary (mother of Jesus) responded to the Holy Spirit’s call “to set out on a mission of charity…”

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Thursday August 15 was the Feast Day of St. Mary the Virgin, as celebrated in the Episcopal Church.   See August 2014’s St. Mary, Mother, and also Mary (mother of Jesus) – Wikipedia:

She is identified [as] the mother of Jesus through divine intervention.  Christians hold her son Jesus to be Christ (i.e., the messiah) and God the Son Incarnate.  Mary (Maryam) also has a revered position in Islam, where a whole chapter of the Qur’an is devoted to her, also describing the birth of Jesus. . .   [She] is considered by millions to be the most meritorious saint of the Church.  Christians of the Catholic Church[,] Anglican Communion, and Lutheran churches believe that Mary, as Mother of Jesus, is the Mother of God and the Theotokos, literally “Bearer of God.”

There’s more on Mary in the August 14 post.  Meanwhile, in getting this post ready I found a draft-post on my recent three-week pilgrimage to Israel, starting with my second full day in Jerusalem. (May 13. See too On my first full day in Jerusalem.) But since I’m starting another overseas pilgrimage in under two weeks,* I should probably get this one out of the way.

For starters, we arrived Saturday night and the driver from St. George’s got us quickly through the dreaded Israeli security at Ben Gurion airport.  But then had a tough time finding my lodging on Al-Isfahani Street.  Later, after settling in my new room, at 4:10 that morning I heard what I took to be an explosion.  It was actually a cannon, marking the start of another day of Ramadan.  (The idea is to give people a chance to eat and drink before the all-day fast.)

That Sunday I wandered Jaffa Street and found a great place to eat, the BeerBazaar.

hasmon1About noon Monday I hooked up at the St. George’s Pilgrim Guest House and met up with my fellow course pilgrims. (Including the nine I flew over with.)  Tuesday featured lectures, orientation and a walk to the Pool of Bethesda in the Old City.  On Wednesday we visited the southeast part of the wall around the Old City.  (The “City of David,” from where we could look east across Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives.)  We slithered through Hezekiah’s tunnel – shown at right, it’s very long, dark and damp – and came out at the Pool of Siloam.  Then we visited the Hasmonean tombs.

That afternoon I took off.  The group was scheduled to visit the Holocaust Memorial.  However, I was familiar with that episode of man’s inhumanity to man from my youthful studies in Judaica (Including – in 1969 – considering the Israeli Army as an alternative to the draft.)  So I wandered back to Davidka Square  – and the liquor store I found Sunday.  I got a bottle of Sommelier, for some brandies-and-water back in my room at night.

Thursday May 16 we visited Ein Kerem, the Church of the Visitation and Mary’s spring.  After lunch at the “Tent Restaurant, Beit Sahour,” we visited the Church of the Nativity and St. Jerome’s chapel and tomb, both in Bethlehem.  The church was both packed and crowded.

There we stood a long while, waiting to do a hump-through-a-tunnel extension of the tour.  It was then I noticed a fellow pilgrim in danger of getting stressed out by all the crowds and noise.  So I did a Good-Samaritan thing – kind of – and persuaded him to join me at the garden restaurant next door – and have a prophylactic Taybeh (Palestinian) beer.  I wrote later:

In situations like this you have to pick your battles.  It’s always seemed to me that finding a spiritual “pilgrimage” breakthrough usually comes in relative solitude, not when you’re surrounded and jostled by hordes of hot, sweaty and pushy “fellow travelers.”

walledoffmurraySpeaking of which, the theme of the Visitation to Mary was “Mary responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to set out on a mission of charity.”  But I didn’t see a whole lot of charity in the visit we made at the END of the day.

That is, we ended the day at the Wall of Separation, also known as the “Israeli West Bank barrier.”  And in a bit of sarcasm – or irony – we stopped at the “Walled Off Hotel.”  (Shown above left.  Luckily, the hotel included a bar, where I enjoyed another Taybeh Palestinian beer.)

See Banksy′s hotel with ′the world′s worst view′ opens in Bethlehem, which said this:

“With a play on words on the luxury Waldorf Astoria chain, this place is called the Walled Off Hotel, because it was built almost immediately next to Israel’s separation wall in the Palestinian-ruled city where Jesus Christ was born.”

Which of course would be Bethlehem, where Jesus was born and “God’s love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, compassion, and glory” were expressed in Him.

But seeing the Walled-off Hotel in His birthplace, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Later that night I had a first experience doing wash-and-wear clothes in the shower, then taking them to the rooftop terrace to hang them out to dry.  During the day it gets “hot as Gehenna” in Jerusalem, but at night it’s generally quite pleasant.  Cool and breezy, “Up on the Roof…”

Then I had my shot or two of brandy and water.

Later still I did some reflecting on the day, and especially the last visit.  I was tempted to conclude that the road to both freedom and spiritual enlightenment seems to be littered with dumbasses along the way.  But hey, that wouldn’t be Christian…

And for those thinking that my free-time was focused ONLY on swilling beer:  I was also doing a weekly overseas alternate exercise program.  (In what free time we had.)  Specifically, a week’s quota of two hours of yoga (1.86) and four hours of calisthenics (3.8), for a total of five hours and 40 minutes.  Plus 500 half-pushups (making adjustments for being old), and 1,000 (that’s ONE THOUSAND) ab crunches.  So I wasn’t ONLY swilling beer in my spare time…

That covers the Jerusalem visit to Friday, May 17, when we visited the Judean wilderness, the Jordan River and Jericho.  (Modern and ancient Jericho, Tel es-Sultan.”)  I’ll be writing more on my visit to Israel from that point on, but first I have to get ready for my visit to Portugal…

Where hopefully I won’t find any “Walls of Separation…” 

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That look about says it all…

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The upper image is courtesy of Mary (mother of Jesus) – Wikipedia.

The Mary’s image at the start of the main text is courtesy of Mary’s Spring Ein Karem – Image Results.

The quote on Jesus, Bethlehem and “Walled-of” is from Deep Significance of the Birth of Jesus Christ.

Re:  “Overseas pilgrimage in under two weeks.”  I fly to Lisbon on August 28.

I took the photograph at the end of the main text.  (“Lower image courtesy of…”)  A fellow St. George’s pilgrim took the photo of the Walled-off Hotel, left of the paragraph beginning, “Speaking of which.”  I also took the photograph of that “Hasmonean tombs” slither-though. 

St. James – and “my next great pilgrimage…”

Camino Portugués – one of many Camino(s) de Santiago – that will be “my next great adventure…”

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Last Thursday, July 25, was the feast day for James, son of Zebedee, one of the Twelve Apostles.  Tradition adds that he was the first apostle to be martyred, some time around 44 A.D.

He was a son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of John the Apostle.  He is also called James the Greater or James the Great to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus.

For more on this James see Wikipedia, or the post St. James (“10/23”) – and the 7 blind men (Illustrated at left.)

That post noted that October 23 is the Feast Day for another James, the brother of Jesus.  Which can be confusing.  (Not least of all because there were as many as six or eight “Jameses” in the Bible.)  Again, “James (’10/23′)” and see also “Hola! Buen Camino!”  (From October 2017.)

[I]n case you’re confused – about the number of “Jameses” in the Bible –  there are at least three men named James in the New Testament, and possibly as many as eight.  (See “BIO of Philip and James…”)   In that list, James the Just (“Brother of Jesus”) is listed third.  James the Less – possibly the “son of Alphaeus” – is listed second.  Listed first is St. James the Greater – “for whom the Camino de Santiago* is named,” and who is in fact the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.  Which is something I mentioned in my last post, On a pilgrimage in Spain.

Which brings up my next pilgrimage.  In 2017 – and as noted in the paragraph above – my Utah brother and I hiked (and biked) the most popular “Camino,” the French Way (In my case, to Santiago de Compostela from Pamplona. where among other things we drank at the Café Iruna of Ernest Hemingway fame – a “whole ‘nother story.”)  But a month from now – September 2, 2019 – my brother and I will start hiking the 140 or so miles, from Porto “back” up to Santiago.*  Via the Portuguese Way, and this time we’ll be joined by my Utah sister-in-law.

On a related note see Feast of Saint James the Apostle in Spain –

Many people in Spain celebrate the life and deeds of James, son of Zebedee, on Saint James’ Day (Santiago Apostol), which is on July 25.  Saint James was one of Jesus’ first disciples.  Some Christians believe that his remains are buried in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Map of GaliciaThe article noted that July 25 is a public holiday in “Basque Country, Cantabria, and Galicia, where it’s a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.”  (A side note:  The “autonomous community” – or province – of Galicia, seen at right, is in northwestern Spain, and that’s where Santiago de Compostela lies, as the “provincial” capital.) 

The article added that:  1) according to Christian tradition this James may have traveled to the area now Santiago;  2) this James was beheaded in Judea in 44 CE, but also that 3) his disciples carried his body by sea to Padrón, on the Galician coast.  Then they  buried his body “under what is now the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.”

Which is why it’s popular as a hiking-slash-pilgrimage route.  On a related note, see On Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints.  Aside from noting – again – that this “July 25” James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims, the post also cited 2016’s St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts:

The point being that I’ve gone on a few pilgrimages in my time, and am fixing to go on another one this September…  And in the Sluts post, I noted that in the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to “the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude…”

Another side note:  It’s better to hike the Camino – in Spain or Portugal – during a month like September, as we did in 2017 and will do again this year.  It’s less hot and “touristy.”

See also “On to Jerusalem,” a post about last May’s pilgrimage to Israel:

[A] pilgrimage can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.  [Like] hour after hour of butt-numbing, back-aching canoe-paddling[, for days on end.  Or during the 2017 Camino trip where] the chief ordeal was hour after hour of hiking, much of it across the dry and dusty Meseta of northern Spain.  Which meant sore achy feet and blister upon blister…  So the question for the upcoming trip to Jerusalem:  “What part of the trip will help me ‘find a sense of my fragility as a mere human being?’”  And “What part of the trip will be ‘most chastening, and also most liberating?’”

And which are some pretty good questions for my upcoming nine-hour flight to Lisbon, and from there to Porto, where three American pilgrims will hike north to Santiago…

So stay tuned!  I’ll be posting “further bulletins as events warrant!”

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Calvin and Hobbes

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The upper image is courtesy of Portuguese Camino De Santiago – Image Results.  The image is accompanied therein by a page “Camino de Santiago – Portuguese Way,” put up by “REI,” that is, Recreational Equipment, Inc.  See also Camino Portugués – Camino de Santiago.

Re:  On “St. James the Greater.”  As noted in the main text, that post included some regrettable errors about which “James” was involved.  On that note, and according to Wikipedia and other sources, “In the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. and Lutheran Church, James, brother of Jesus and martyr is commemorated on October 23.”  But again, the Feast Day for James the Greater is July 25.

On the “Santiago.”  Iago is the Spanish form of the name “James,” itself a variation, a “a modern descendant of Iacobus, the Latin form of the Hebrew name Jacob.  James is a popular name worldwide, but it is most commonly seen in English-speaking populations.”  Other Spanish variations include “Yago” and “Diego.”  Thus the town of “Saint Iago.”  James (name) – Wikipedia.

Re:  Miles from Porto to Santiago.  Google Maps had three routes, with two going through Pontevedra, as we will.  One of the two routes is 134 miles, the other 141.

Re:  John Steinbeck and “sluts.”  The “sluts” at issue were mentioned by Robert Louis Stevenson in his ground-breaking 1879 work Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.  It was considered a “pioneering classic of outdoor literature,” and it inspired Steinbeck‘s 1962 book, Travels with Charley.

Re:  My last-May trip to Israel.  See On my first full day in Jerusalem, and “Back from three weeks in Israel.”  See also “If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem,” for some pre-trip research I did in April.

The lower image is courtesy of James, son of Zebedee – Wikipedia, with the full caption, “Saint James the Elder by Rembrandt[.]  He is depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”

On a wedding in Hadley – and John, Peter and Paul…

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist-Caravaggio (1610).jpg

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, meaning you sometimes have to “pay the price…”

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Some two weeks ago or so I got back from three weeks in Israel(A post followed by My first full day in Jerusalem.)  Then right away I had to make a dramatic transition:  From free-wheeling world traveler to “weird uncle of the bride.”  Which is being interpreted:

Town Hall and First Congregational ChurchAfter my adventures in Tel Aviv – getting lost hiking to the train station, taking the wrong train (away from the airport) and going 26 hours without sleep – I had to begin preparing for an 1,100 mile road trip up to Hadley, MA.

There my “favorite niece from Utah” was getting married.

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There will be more on that happy event later, but first…  It’s time for me to remember the main theme of this blog, “exploring the mystical side of Bible reading.”  Which means in large part remembering the particular liturgical feast days, either coming up or just past.  In this case, the feast day for two saints, Peter and Paul, is coming up tomorrow, June 29.  And the feast day for the Nativity of John the Baptist, happened just last Monday, June 24.

For fuller treatments see Nativity of John the Baptist (2015)Peter, Paul – and other “relics” (also from 2015), or John the Baptist, Peter and Paul – 2016.  But here are the highlights:

One key for John the Baptist:  He became that voice crying in the wilderness, as noted in Matthew 3:3:  This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ is another way of saying John the Baptist served as precursorforerunner or advance man for Jesus.  (As in,News Flash:  Jesus is on the way!“)  Or as it says in the Collect for the Day: “your servant John the Baptist … sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior.”

The Collect added that we too should follow John’s example, and “constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake.”  (See Nativity of St. John.)  On the other hand we need to remember that doing that sometimes meaning “paying the price…”

As illustrated in the painting at the top of the page… Peter, Paul – and other “relics” tells how these two apostles got martyred near the same time, and about the “translation of relics.”  (Which here meant moving – temporarily – “the remains of the two apostles” to keep them from being desecrated.)  But the main point is this:  Even though Peter and Paul came to argue vehemently over certain points of doctrine – as shown at left – they still worked together to spread the Gospel.  Which led to this thought:

Some Christians seem to think they have to be all “nicey-nicey,” all the &%#$ time, with each other and with non-Christians.  But the Feast of Peter and Paul goes to show it’s okay to have differences of opinion, or even “squabble” from time to time…

And that for that matter, it’s okay to argue with God too…

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And now for that “favorite niece from Utah” getting married.  For a fuller treatment of the  1,100-mile road trip by which I got up to that happy event, see On a wedding in Hadley(From my companion blog.)  But again, here are some highlights.

One highlight involves the photo between the main text and notes below, of the wedding rehearsal Friday, June 21.  The father of the bride is practice-walking his daughter down the aisle made by two rows of chairs inside the massive tent in the front yard of the parents of the groom.  Although the bride-to-be’s looking back could be interpreted as having some deep symbolic meaning, that definitely wasn’t the case.  And the “cherub” seen in part just ahead of the father-and-bride belonged to one of the bridesmaids.  (So no hidden meaning there.) 

The Light That FailedBut of course all that was preceded by getting down to work on Thursday.  While the main wedding party worked on “favors,”  I helped by staying out of the way.  (As in “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.”)  And by reading a first (1908) edition of Kipling’s “The Light That Failed.”  (Another version shown at right.) 

But I made up for it on Friday, by helping set up a tent-full of tables and chairs.  Then the wedding rehearsal finally started.  (A good bit after the scheduled 6:00 p.m. start time, but then the happy couple was definitely “not hung up on that deadline thing!”) 

Then came the final preparations, all during the morning and early-afternoon of Saturday, wedding day, June 22.  Then came the count-down:  4:52 p.m. “It shan’t be long now!”  Then the Officiant getting some last-minute instructions, as shown by a photo in the notes below.

And finally – at or about 5:43 p.m. – it became official.  They were married!

And then – It was TIME TO DANCE!

(As shown by a second photo in the notes below.)  

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Wedding rehearsal.  (No “body-language hidden meaning…”)

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The upper image is courtesy of Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, (Wikipedia) by Michelangelo Marisi Caravaggio (1571-1621) “circa” 1621:  “His paintings combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting…”

lastminuteinstructionsThe Wikipedia caption for the Hadley MA image is “Town Hall and First Congregational Church.”  The “Officiant getting some last-minute instructions” photo – which I took – is shown at right. 

The Peter-and-Paul image is courtesy of canvasreplicas/Rembrandt.  See also Two Scholars Disputing by REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn.

Re:  The “(1908) edition of Kipling’s ‘The Light That Failed.’”  The future in-laws had quite the book collection in their lovely home…

I took the lower-photo image on June 21, 2019.

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dancepicAs noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  But first, my “time to dance” photo-image is shown at left.

Back to the four main themes

The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)

The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind.

For more on these themes, see the end-of-notes for the most recent post…