It Begins

imageThere’s something about dreaming and thinking about an event, that when the day arrives it feels unreal, impossible, amazing, uncanny, startling.

My daughter Grace (29) and I walked through downtown Portland a couple weeks back to attend the St James’ Mass and receive our shells for our journey together. Grace will join me for 10 days on the Camino.  As she said, “Dad, from you I received a love for travel and a love for backpacking, so I want to come join you to experience those with you again.”  Grace is a healer.  We have had some challenging times with both of these, so, she wants to experience healing. As in life we get hurt in relationships and healed in new relationships, so we can be hurt in experiences and healed in new experiences.  So, we are heading for healing.

The walk itself was this wonderful adventure in and of itself.  You’d have to meet Grace to understand, she is a gift to be with. We had this great conversation about life, experiences, people, and food as we walked.  We stopped at Whole Foods and grabbed a simple dinner. We ate sitting on the booth chairs in the cafeteria there.  We laughed, joked, bantered, and just enjoyed one another.  I’m thankful for her rich, deep, joyful personality, her spiritual breadth, her heart for people.  She’s an inspiration.

imageThe mass began with this rich, beautiful, melodic voice singing acapella over the 150+ people gathered in St Mary’s Cathedral.  The homily caught my heart as the priest described pilgrimage as a means to “discover the treasure within you so that you might have a gift to share with others.”  In this pilgrim journey we learn to let things go, dropping ‘things’ along the way.  Not so much our possessions, he said, although perhaps those as well, but more the “baggage that we have carried through life.”  In this way, this pilgrim journey becomes a kind of death that allows us to make room for life.

He could not have been more aligned with the needs of my own heart than to thus speak!  I sat there thinking back to the many, many, many journal entries of me speaking and listening to God and the frequency with which I encounter my own need to “let go.”

Once I would have said I am very good at this, letting stuff go, but now I know better.  I am better at letting go of things, like old clothes I don’t want to wear any longer, than of the precious substance of my heart, those places and actions in which I find my identity and life.  Letting go of these is hard.  I am terrible of letting go of the things I “do” in order to gain love and affirmation of others.  I like holding onto the actions that I end up doing because of how they make me “feel.”  When I hand over things and then don’t see action, man it is hard to just let it go.  Dying — that is the hard work that I am doing now.  Dying.  Releasing points of identity and finding life in relationship to God anew.  Sounds pious?  Trust me, it is hardly that. It is just hard work.  Like a desert hike without water…

After worship we went to the courtyard to each receive our scallop shell.  I will be carrying that shell the 500 miles to Santiago de Compostela.  Part of this ceremony is hearing read the “Beatitudes of the Pilgrim” which has many “blessings” read over us.  One read by this petite woman, with a quiet, sincere voice, “Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you search for the truth hand make of your Camino a life, and of your life a Camino, after Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.”  Her words penetrated my heart.  “Yes, yes, yes,” I resonated, deep within, “I want to live out being a pilgrim and continue to live as a pilgrim.”

Pictured here are the 12 of us pilgrims (and a couple other leaders) who received the shell at this ceremony all of us leaving on our “camino” walk within the next month.


We spoke with this one couple who said what many have told me:  “It was the most significant experience of my life.”

Today — August 8th — this Camino adventure begins, not only for me, but for the entire Westside Congregation.  We are “in this” together as we make this life a Camino.


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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3 Responses to It Begins

  1. David Luce says:

    My dear Brian

    I received your email today joyfully with its reminder that we are all pilgrims on the way. And how good it is that Grace will be able to be with you for part of the journey. You will both have a story to tell which in turn will enrich your hearers.

    You always write in a really interesting way, and I’m grateful. My own emails must seem pedestrian by contrast!

    Lots of love. You are always in my thoughts and prayers.



    • Camino Way 2016 Shimer says:

      Oh pops!!!! Pedestrian is not a word I would use for you!!! Beloved! Delightful! Joyful! Expressive!! Those might be words…


  2. David Luce says:

    Hi, Brian

    This Poem came into my mind after receiving your email. So here is my second response!

    Give me my scallop-shell of quiet, My staff of faith to walk upon; My scrip of joy, immortal diet, My bottle of salvation; My gown of glory (hope’s true gage), And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.

    Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618)

    That’s just the start of the poem entitled “His Pilgrimage”, but I thought you would like this extract anyway.

    Accompanying you in thought and prayer every day.

    Much love,



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