“Once you decide to walk the Camino, all of your life is part of that journey.”

I made the decision January 2014.

I had had lunch with a good brother of mine, Skip, and he had told how he and his wife had walked the Camino de Santiago the previous year (at 69 years old) and had been forever changed.

The idea of stripping life down to such basics – a place to sleep and eat, a path to walk, and prayer – captured my heart.

My fellow pastors in the Cedar Hills area had been encouraging me to take a sabbatical for two years. They had told of how their own three-month breaks had impacted their lives and ministries.

“You need this,” they said.

I knew they were right but until Skip and I had talked, I didn’t know what I would do. But I was captured by this 500-mile trek — The Camino de Santiago de la Compostela.

I’ve already written here of our journey as a congregation applying for and receiving the Lilly Foundation Clergy Renewal grant.

This week another gift entered my preparation year in the person of a young 26-year-old named Matthew.

Matthew met our dear friend David Luce (here) when in England for his grandmother’s funeral in February 2016. Matthew’s mom is English. And it turned out her mom, his grandmother, and her dad had been friends of my friend David’s for over 40 years. When at the funeral, as a last minute change, since Matthew’s cousin couldn’t make it, he was asked to read scripture. David’s ears perked up at hearing an American accent.

In chatting with Matthew after the funeral, David was thrilled to discover that Matthew soon planned to move to Portland, Oregon for his doctorate at the Naturopathic College there.

“Portland!?!? I have dear friends there.”

And then and there he shared my contact information with Matthew.

That seemed a bit out of the blue for Matthew, but as a lover of Jesus, he knew it could be Spirit led. He waited to contact me for a while, but then one day the Lord said, “Write him!” Matthew, who had been a bit nervous to do so, obeyed.

When I received his email, I thought, any friend of David’s is my friend too, and in our correspondence invited Matthew to plan to bunk with us until other, more suitable lodging could be found.

He arrived Monday May 9th.   As we shared that night, our life stories, hurts and victories, addiction and recovery, it was astounding to me how connected I felt immediately to his young man. It was like he had always been a part of our lives and somehow, even that first night, I sensed he would have a continual place there.

By Friday we had covered many major subjects of the heart from sex to faith, from shame and vulnerability to guilt and sin. I had invited him to join me planting my wife’s mom’s vegetable garden, and then for my haircut, and then he went on a 6-hour hike with Gabrielle. It is remarkable to me.

Who does this? How is it possible to be so richly connected so quickly? I love him as if he is my son, and, my equal. I’m learning so much from him. And I am relishing the beauty of this old soul.

What are you doing, Lord?

“Son, you are on My Camino. You don’t know what surprises I have planned for you along the way both now and later. Matthew is part of my plan. He is a foretaste of the many others whom I shall bring into your life to bless and enrich you. Your life, it is mine, and I am working to transform it.”

I’m humbled.




About Camino Way 2016 Shimer

On August 22, 1981 I married this wonderful woman, Karen, who has consistently blessed and changed my life and days. We are still in love, all the more with the years. We have four daughters, two sons by marriage, and three delightful, wonderful grandchildren. So, that makes me a husband, father, and grandfather all in those sentences. But mostly just a guy who loves my family. Today Karen and I planted beautiful plants in numerous pots. She had come home with the plants and that experience reminded me how much I enjoy simple things and simple pleasures -- like digging in dirt to plant a flower, like sunlight through glass on a spring day, like clean windows -- just washed ours today -- like a melody that won't escape from my heart. I've been a local church pastor for 30 years as of this June, a number that staggers me for I feel about that age on the inside, but clearly that's not the case. Back in 1988 I graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary with an Mdiv-- a time of schooling that has been a foundation for years of ministry. But it is mostly in the building upon that foundation, that has most changed my life. I love people, love seeing Jesus work in people's lives. One of my favorite joys is to pray with someone through some horrible place of memory and see Jesus walk right into their memory world, and turn on the lights in a way that sets their soul free and brings healing. There's nothing like this privilege and I have been there to watch it happen more times than I can count. Between 4 and 7 the associate pastor of my family's congregation sexually abused me, first grooming me, then repeatedly violating my young self. This marked my life. It changed my bearings. It ripped at my faith. It wounded my image of what it meant to be a little boy, and later a man. It has been a point from which I have been in the process of healing for many years now. I'm a survivor, but more than that, I am one who lives beyond what was done. For in the middle of all that stuff, Jesus was calling me, speaking to me, bidding me to follow him to bring change to people's lives within the realm of the very office that was used to harm me. Only Jesus can make light from darkness, hope from despair, and healing from brokenness. I love Jesus. He really is alive, no matter what others may believe. And his life, his presence, his words into my world, his healing power have continued to be the foundation point of what it means to experience life to the fullest. I love writing. I don't really know why on that score for really writing has never been a central tool in my world, nor has it come easily. But I love seeing how words released heal. And I love the way words can connect me to other people's worlds. So, that's why I started blogging. It began because I was planning to blog on a weekly basis when I went to walk the Camino de Santiago last fall. And in order to be able to blog while walking, I knew I had to begin to practice blogging before I was in another country. A friend told me that. Friends are good to help us find ways to live more authentically into our daily lives! So, I started. But what I have discovered is there is something powerful about sharing the story of life with others. So, I have continued. And I love the connections being built through those words. In 2011 I experienced my first seminar in Simply the Story, a bible story telling method that involves those listening in discussion and I decided then -- "this is what I plan to do when I retire." But really-- "why wait until then?" -- so I use this method while I continue pastoring. It sets people free and allows the Word to take root in ways that preaching never has. So again and again I am practicing asking questions and that is good practice for me, because I am frequently better at "telling" than "asking." This has been such a freeing gift. I love training others in this skill. So, a storyteller would certainly be true of me too. Years ago I discovered my mission in life is "the joyful transformation of people's lives through the person of Jesus Christ." And that continues to be where I find my home base, in joy. Where there is joy, I find, there is Jesus, and there is the possibility of transformation. Of course Jesus is in places where there is no joy as well, and once He is there, the place kind of changes because of Him. I love that.
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