Finding Strength

I lift my eyes to the mountains —

       from where will my help come? — Psalm 121:1

My spouse and I are about to embark on walking the Camino de Santiago.  We walked the French route in 2012 and the Portuguese route in 2017.  This year we will walk Del Norte along the northern coast of Spain.

There are many preparations to be made:  Making sure everything will happen at church that needs to while I am gone.  Making sure everything will happen at home, including care for our two dogs, while we are gone.  Taking care of medical issues.  Doing lots of walking to get in shape.  And packing the least amount of gear possible because we will carry it 537 miles.

With all that walking, one very important matter is footwear and foot care.  There are many forums discussing what kind of shoes and socks to wear and how to take care of the blessed feet that carry the pilgrim all those miles.  Some people prefer boots, some shoes.  Some like waterproof, some like non-waterproof because they dry faster and don’t cause your feet to sweat.  Some like one brand of socks, some another.  Some rub petroleum jelly into their feet every day.  Some use powders.  Some people take their shoes and socks off regularly throughout the day to let them air out.  And to help with blisters, make sure you packed a needle and thread.  Put the needle through the blister, with the thread, and leave a tail of thread coming out of the blister to facilitate drainage of the blister.  And walk on!

A friend of mine has been walking the Appalachian Trail and I consulted her about walking and about footwear.  I asked her if it gets easier; does the pain subside. She texted back — after five months — “Painful every day!”  In one text about footwear, I mentioned the need for a sturdy sole.  In the voice-to-text translation, it showed up as sturdy “soul.”

Sturdy soul.  I like that image.  These days, we all need a sturdy soul — whether we are preparing for a pilgrimage or not.  There are so many wonders to the living our days but there are also extreme perils like global warming, like racism, like the gun violence epidemic, like this pandemic.  There are many things for us to weather including floods, fires, and drought.  And there is the economic landscape to navigate which is treacherous for many people.  And there are the usual challenges of this life including troubling relationships, aging, and dying.

Where can we turn to help our souls be sturdy?  The psalmist talks about looking to the mountains or hills.  Well, we don’t have much hilly territory in Florida and certainly not in Naples as it is adjacent to the Everglades!

So where can we turn for our help?  How can we cultivate sturdy souls?  We can turn to the church.  We can find help to keep our souls sturdy.  At church our souls get a workout, becoming strong and resilient.  At church our souls get stretched and strengthened.  At church our souls get realigned so that we can be agile and flexible about how to live out of compassion and generosity instead of the greed and desperation we see around us.  At church our souls become sturdy in company with others for we are stronger together than we can ever be apart.  At church we tap into the source of love, the strongest force known to humanity.

Why do some of us choose to walk hundreds of miles on pilgrimage?  That is a topic for another devotion.  But I do know one reason we go to church.  To cultivate sturdy souls!

Prayer focus

Sturdy souls

This day may bring challenge and heartache.  I may feel shaken to the core.  My reality may shift.  I need a sturdy soul to weather the terrain of daily living.  May I look to the church for help.  And this day may bring sunshine, warmth, hugs and smiles.  May my gratitude help to sturdy my soul so that I may be a source of compassion and love for others.  Amen.