Days 15 & 16 — Santander to Santiallana del Mar

IMG_8436I awoke in our third floor, fine room in Santander and while everyone slept, I got up.  I read three more chapters from Ezekiel and was perplexed by the strength of God’s judgment found in those chapters. God is serious about sin in people, serious enough to come to make a way out! As I waded through the words of judgment, it was the promise of God that remained with me. In the 34th chapter, God spoke through the prophet His promise to come Himself and be the shepherd of the sheep. He would be a shepherd who would bind up the wounded, carry the weak, feed the hungry, and this morning, the reminder of such a Shepherd, one I knew, stayed with me. What a beautiful gift of blessing this was upon me, and indeed, on us as we walked on this Way. I prayed over my companions, over this day, over this life, I breathed in deeply the fresh morning air.

When the alarm rang the others stirred and began to move toward getting out the door. We took 45 minutes to gather all our things, load backpacks, walk down the flights of stairs and depart. We followed the directions of our hostess — to take the train from the city to this one village that is just across a treacherous bridge. It was about a 30-minute ride and saved us walking through the concrete of the city.

We walked through the early morning, walking up streets to the train station. It was just about 15 minutes away. There we discovered were two stations, and we went to the wrong one first, and then walked just steps away to the 2nd station. There we purchased our tickets, grabbed some hot breakfast in a bar at the station and ate it in the 20 minutes we had before the train left.  We walked out to the train car and climbed in. There were two other pilgrims onboard as well.

The walk led from the train stop in a small village through foothills and across a bluff. I walked one section with Benny from Germany, with his Beethoven black hair. Benny is 40-ish, a choir director, who has a girlfriend who is a Syrian refugee. Neither can speak the other’s “mother tongue” so they converse in English. Imagine a cross-cultural, and cross-language relationship where you cannot use your heart-language to communicate! Relationships are difficult even when we speak the same language and are from the same culture!  It was this wild, open conversation about the refugee crisis in Germany, and the tough steps he has had to take in his own life. He was a fascinating and quite entertaining person to walk with.

Down below us from the bluffIMG_8437 we could see this factory billowing smoke and a city. I remember seeing that and thinking, “Man, sure glad we don’t have to walk down there.” But the Way continued down, down into this industrial valley. We ended ended up walking behind the factory, through the thick air, along this dusty, gravel road that continued straight as far as the eye could see. It was one of those depressing Camino moments. We were wishing for another Way to get a ride around this section!

As we made our way out of the town IMG_8439IMG_8435and into the countryside, we walked through these wonderful hills. IMG_8445IMG_8442IMG_8444Puppies occasionally would make their way out of their yards and walk with us for a way down their road. They were our escorts, cavorting and “laughing” as only puppies can. We saw a sign for cheese and came to this farm where the farmer sells his own fresh cheese. IMG_8452That farm really smelled like a farm! He had real cows there just behind where he kept the cheese! He opened up for us, and we selected a round of his fresh cheese to take with us.

In the late afternoon we arrived in the beautiful, unique, inland village of Santiallana del Mar. IMG_8447IMG_8446IMG_8449I thought since the name said “del Mar” that it actually would be “on the sea,” however, we were miles inland. I had booked a room for 2 nights here and so I just relax on the beach! 🙂  This was a tough time for me.  Since my friends would be hiking ahead the next morning, I would have to begin anew with a new group of friends. Nannette, Claudio, Lorenzo and I went to a local pub, had bowls of the best soup,

broke out our cheese, enjoyed their cider. It was our “last supper!”

Santialliana Del Mar is a great, unique tourist place. IMG_8458Glad to have arrived.

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Then I walked the cobblestone streets up and out of the town, on paved roads, and up toward the community just 1 km out of the main city where I had booked my hotel for two nights.

I was grateful that it turned out that close. It was strange to arrive at this beautiful, tiled room, with my own bathroom, own space with two beds, and a window overlooking the scenery. It was quiet, even silent, there, in the country. Indeed, my hotel was so quiet the internet didn’t work, so I had this experience of being cut off from all connections.

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I washed my clothes, bathed, napped, and then at 5:30 pm wandered back into town to see if I could meet up with anyone. I got lost on the way, but have written that experience here.
I walked into town and looked for the albergue to find Nannette. Since the internet was down, I had no means to make contact with her.

I walked in town and up one of the main roads and saw Nannette and Benny sitting outside a restaurant sharing a beer. I joined them, caught up and then Nannette and I wandered the town. There were no restaurants open yet, so we ended up going into the torture museum, which was ridiculous, awful, and I knew I’d visited others like it. The atrocities people have committed against others was immense. Suddenly God’s words of judgment from the Ezekiel chapters made more sense. There is a need for justice against evil, and the tortures I read of were just that, evil.

We finished with that museum quickly, sincerely wondering why we had gone, and then went back into town. It was about 7:30 and all restaurants would begin serving at 8 pm. So, we wandered into one place and there in the courtyard sat our dear Australian friends Mick and Marg.

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We joined them and had a loud, raucous hour conversation. It was this great, joyful, laughing time. Nannette and I ate there, and Mick and Marg were enjoying cocktails before their dinner time at another local haunt. It was this totally delightful time. I felt like, even though our dates are staggered, that we will meet up again with them, and and this proved true on September 29th!  (The date will link you to that post.)

The Camino will provide. 

Nannette went to the albergue for her early start and I bought a GF Danish and chocolate and walked back toward my place. It was a strange feeling separating from these friends with whom I had already bonded as if we had known one another for years and years. It was amazing the richness that hardship and a shared life added to our relationship. I went to a bar and sat there using the internet, reconnecting with family, writing my blog post until about 9:30 pm. That night I slept well and awoke early surprised that I was in a hotel room, surprised not to be surrounded by others, surprised not to be needing to walk that day. My feet were grateful. My heart felt sad.  That’s when I saw the message.

A brother from church back home had had the Lord drop a message into his heart on August 28th.  He knew it was for me.  He hesitated to send it. But felt he needed to share it. It arrived on this first morning while alone, without companions, in a hotel where no one spoke a word of English.  He had received three simple phrases:

  • “It’s not where you are looking.”
  • “Be Quiet about your faith.”
  • “Be humble in your love.” 

Then he added a fourth that God had been laying on his heart for quite a while:

  • “When love wins, God wins.”

It astounded me as I read these how they paralleled what I had already been hearing.  The first one, “it’s not where you are looking,” didn’t surprise me, although I didn’t know what to do with it.  I knew– I had been looking for identity in what I do, and it was in who I was. Just being mattered.  Such a tough message for me. God had already been leading me into silence.

I spent the morning relaxing, reading, praying over what he had sent and seeking the presence of Jesus, writing and then around 11:30 I walked into town. I went to another museum then found a place to eat lunch. I located the Camino path for my early start the next morning. It was a day of silence. IMG_8456

“Lord, I think I make much of time.  Much of how I do what I do when I do it.  The pattern of my life is rooted in time.  But what really is central is time rooted with others.  Experiences in conversation, in relationship. It is not that I am walking this long trail but that the Camino is shaping, it is walking me.  My way of living is shifting by what this walk is like for me. My heart is shifting.  My hopes are changing. What Kat wrote on the next page, Lord.  She is right. It is all about the journey.  Today my journey is one of silence, of being still. I will dwell in hope. I’ve walked for 2 weeks today, averaging 18 miles a day, and have taken 492,936 steps.”

Kat’s entry:  “If life has taught me anything it is that it is all about the journey not the destination. Your journey so far has let you to this amazing experience. I count my blessings everyday that in a small way I will be able to go on this adventure with you. Your’s such an awesome example of everything God tries to impress upon us. Your light, warmth, kindness, compassion and energy are such a great joy to me and my family.  I wish you all the best.  May your feet never fail you and the sun be a guiding light for you on this path of self discovery. Enjoy your quiet free “me time” and hurry home to us. We will be waiting.”   IMG_8455

The affirmation of home echoed in my heart on this day apart:

“You have been such an inspiration and Godsend to Chloe and I.  Thank you for everything.  May this walk be amazing and spiritual.  We love you an will miss you…”

“You are a blessing to all you meet!  We are so excited to hear about all the new friendships you’ve made along the way. God bless you and all the powerful good work that you enable. You are a gift to me.”  Wendy

“Sorry my handwriting isn’t good.  Make sure that you eat and drink enough, because I don’t want you to die from starvation or thirst! But you probably won’t.  And I know that God won’t let that happen.  I love you and I will miss you.”  Alex.

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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