Look For My Hand

People have asked me what I learned from walking the Camino.  There’s much there, and much yet I’ll discover, but one thing that has come more frequently to the surface than anything else is this: I’m poor at trusting God and God is excessive with patience toward me.  

So I was journaling while on the bus back to Santiago, about how little in me had changed, kind of complaining to God about my still familiar broken places, and the sense of sadness at the time in Spain ending.  I find that I tend to complain, to stomp my feet, more than I’d care to admit and, there on that bus, God spoke back–

“Look for my hand today, Child. Look today.”

So, like on the Camino, when I was watching for the yellow arrows,  I looked up and looked for the signs of God’s hand. This joyful search carried me into the day that followed. 

God’s Hand: that day, I received this text from my daughter Gabri.  She wrote: “I totally understand how the loss of routine is unsettling. It can be really hard to sink into so much free time, especially when all of your energy, physically and emotionally and mentally, has been so consumed up until now. I think that’s something we both struggle with. Also, how hard that your time in Spain is coming to a close. I hope that you can really sink into the parts of alone time that feel the most uncomfortable while you’re in Ireland and get through all of the uneasiness to the deep, soul-refreshing rest that you need. It’s such a good reminder to stay with your feet – even when they aren’t walking. 👍 I’m praying for you, dad! Thanks for telling me how you really are! I love you so much!! 😘😘 ”

It is wonderful to have such wise daughters willing to reach out to their dad!!! 🤓I read her words of encouragement and saw clearly how God had spoken through her.  

God’s Hand: As I entered my dorm room, in Santiago later that day, the first person to meet was a German who had been biking Europe for two months and just finished the Camino. His name was Joshua. The first Joshua I had met on this journey and reminded me of his biblical counterpart.  God’s word to that Joshua echoed in my heart, “Be strong and courageous!”  My other rommmate was Benjamin! What a combo! 

God’s Hand:  I’d come back on Wednesday to connect with friends who were to finish that day, and tried to arrange dinner with them, but connections didn’t work for multiple reasons, so I went to my favorite restaurant in the old city and ate there on my own. I sat there realizing I was not lonely, but enjoyed being there. And realized that this will be a new stage in my reality. Learning to truly be ok with me. The waiters knew me there, were incredibly solicitous, and it was a joyful evening.  

God’s Hand:  Even though I had eaten alone, as I walked home I passed these two pilgrims, staring at the map of old town, looking like I had been numerous times: lost. 

I asked:  “Could in help you find something?” 

“Oh my gosh!”  One of them exclaimed, “You speak English!  Yes, we are trying to find our hotel.” They were Aussies, Marg and Arlene, both retired, in their 60s, joyful eyes, laughter in their countenances, excepting the slight frustration at feeling lost.  They had just arrived that day in Santiago, so I congratulated them on completing their Camino’s. They’d also hiked the del Norte, so we shared a common experience.   

One thing I could do by then was navigate the old city. I had spent lots of time lost there!!  So I took delight in chatting with them as I walked them to their hotel. Thankfully I had just passed it earlier that day in my walk back from the bus station, and had an idea where it was located. 

The gift of this time with these pilgrims was immense. We knew the same journey, had similar stories, and laughed our way to their place. 

God’s Hand:  I was up early the next morning and was sitting in the basement lounge, reading and praying when this woman, Noriega from Lithuania, sat down and we began to share about our Camino experiences. She’d walked the 600+km journey from Lisbon.  She introduced me to her favorite movie “Peaceful Warrior” and pulled up her favorite scene on YouTube and showed it to me, where the main character discovers:  “It’s all about the journey, not the destination.”  Such a good reminder. 

God’s Hand:  I had plenty of time before my flight at five that evening and had to check out of my hostel at 9 am, so had my last té con leche caliente, and then went to the Pilgrim Museum.  The man who took my 1.20€ entrance fee ($1.50 – and in my mind hardly worth charging), told me: 

“Take those stairs to the lockers downstairs, and if you’d like, you can start your tour in the room just across from the lockers, with our new display of ancient Russian Orthodox Icons.”

Two of our children and their families are Antiochian Orthodox, so I am familiar with the deep, prayerful liturgy and practice surrounding iconography.  But I didn’t expect God. 

I walked into that room, which may look sterile in the photos, but it was filled with the saints.  Those icons perhaps thousands of years old, had been prayed through, and greeted, and included in liturgy and the prayerful presence was there. For those unfamiliar with icons- the icon is a window to that very person, that saint, and you are greeting that old friend as the icon is kissed and bowed before. As you might ask a friend in life to pray for this or that, so too the saint depicted by the icon is asked for intercessory prayer.  I find the Orthodox have such a  robust appreciation for and practice of the great cloud of witnesses. 

As I entered this God-filled room, tears came to my eyes, and I made my way around this room greeting the saints, asking for their intercession, praying to God and being blessed by the richness of faith there. After I finished visiting the museum, I returned to that room and spent more time in prayer, basking in the presence.  

God’s Hand: I thought I would go check for this certain artisan whose work I appreciated.  She always set up behind the cathedral and had the most unique bead work I had seen. I walked up the steps and as I reached the top saw she wasn’t there yet. Just as I turned however 

I saw these pilgrims just arriving and they looked really familiar.  

“Marg?” I asked. She looked at me and shouted and began to cry, “Brian? Mick,” she poked her husband, who was about to walk by me, “Look! It’s Brian!” 

I’d had last seen these dear, dear people on September 2nd.  That day we had walked for five hours together and shared our life stories. 

We hugged, cried, laughed and hugged more. They had not been scheduled until the next day.  They’d pressed ahead arriving at the exact moment when I had tipped those stairs.  It was God indeed that they had come just then.

I got to walk them into the plaza for their first welcome into Santiago. We ate lunch together and then they walked me to the bus stop for my airport bus.  

“Look for my hand.”  Perhaps the new yellow arrows of this life have been there all along. Perhaps the lesson is simply to follow them.  “Look for my hand.”  

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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8 Responses to Look For My Hand

  1. MJE says:

    Great reminder. Thank you. Looking forward to see how God’s hand leads you in Ireland!Thank you for being you!

    Like

  2. David Luce says:

    My dear Brian,

    Every time I read your emails I receive a blessing, and this morning is no exception. What amazing experiences you have had along the way. You have indeed known the Lord’s good hand on you.

    Now we too cannot wait to see you this coming Thursday at the airport at 8.45 pm. Probably soon after when you have passed through Customs. We’ll have so much to talk about! Our good friend, Markus, from Switzerland is here for a few days, and you will just overlap here. He catches the train from Nottingham on Friday morning at 9 am.

    Much love, and hugs

    Pops

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kari Suppes says:

    Hey Brian! Have so enjoyed reading your blog posts! I have just the book for you;-) I think I mentioned it before.
    It’s called “A Complaint Free World: How to stop complaining and start enjoying the life you always wanted” by Will Bowen. It’s an easy read and about 175 pages. It’s very eye opening and I’m working on the 21-day challenge to not complain, criticize or gossip. I shared about it at God-sightings last week. I highly recommend it after reading this post!
    I will be praying for you in your alone time! It really will be OK! And you’re really not alone – Jesus is right with you!
    Miss you and looking forward to seeing you in about a month!
    Love and Blessings to you,
    Kari

    Liked by 1 person

    • Camino Way 2016 Shimer says:

      Thanks kari! I believe I have that book! Not with me but at home. Thanks for recommending it. I’ll break it out. Good for you doing the 21 day challenge. That’s a real fast. Reminds me of when Catherine Marshall felt like the Lord led her to not speak anything negative. To her shock she realized in her silence that every thing she thought to speak was negative. She was silent for three whole days!! I know that won’t be the case for you! “Whatever!” Love to you. Thanks for prayers. I’ve been relishing the alone time. It’s been good for my soul!

      Like

    • Camino Way 2016 Shimer says:

      Thanks also for the heads up on what is coming out of my mouth before I get to the book! The practice is more crucial than the reading i would agree. So — no complaining, or criticism or gossip (easier here, not many conversations except with Jesus and he’s firm on not gossiping)! Thanks and wonderful to hear you shared in a God sighting! I’ve been praying for the stewardship focus these next weeks. Thanks for being the leader you are!

      Like

    • Camino Way 2016 Shimer says:

      So Kari — after our brief correspondence I was reading today’s scripture and came to– “But Jesus said, ‘Stop complaining about what I said.'” John 6:43. I had to laugh and wrote it down! 😬😂

      Like

      • Kari says:

        That’s awesome! Jesus is so funny! It’s been really cool about how He has been talking to me from the Women’s Retreat in mid-September, to some dreams I’ve had, to journaling, to the complaint free book and even in the seminar that Joe and I took together called “Calming the Overactive Brain”. They are all interconnected!
        And I’ll have to tell you about the dream I had regarding the auction when you get home. You are going to crack up!
        Now I need to go read your most recent post! Please don’t feel like you have to respond – you are supposed to be “alone”;-)
        Blessings,
        Kari

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Coreyedime says:

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    Like

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