James the Apostle: Son of Thunder

(Blogger’s Note: Taking a break from my normal format and style today to offer a few thoughts about James the Apostle. It’s appropriate here, since the Camino de Santiago’s traditional route along Camino Frances (The French Way) concludes in Compostela, Spain at a cathedral where it’s believed James’ remains are enshrined.)

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  • He is not to be confused with two other men named James who appear in the New Testament: James, the son of Alphaeus, another apostle; and James, the brother of Jesus, a leader in the Jerusalem church and author of the book of James.
  • Of the three apostles who comprised the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples (Peter, James and John), we know the least about James. We do know, however, that he was the eldest brother of John, and that their father’s name was Zebedee (their mother’s name was Salome.)
  • James was a temperamental contradiction. He possessed two natures, both of which were actuated by strong feelings. He was particularly vehement when his indignation was fully aroused. He had a fiery temper when adequately provoked, and when the storm was over, he was inclined to justify and excuse that anger. Except for these periodic upheavals of wrath, James’s personality was much like that of Andrew. He didn’t have Andrew’s discretion or insight into human nature, but he was a superior public speaker. Next to Peter, James may have been the best public orator among the 12.
  • James, his brother John, Peter and Andrew were all partners in a fishing business prior to their calling to follow Jesus.
  • There is evidence that James was the first cousin of Jesus, and had been acquainted with Him from infancy. It is believed his mother Salome was the sister of Jesus’ mother Mary.
  • Not much is known of his ministry after Jesus’ resurrection. It is believed, however, that he lived another 14 years before his martyrdom. By order of Herod Agrippa I, James was beheaded in Jerusalem about the feast of Easter, 44 AD. It’s believed that during this 14-year period, James visited the Jewish colonist and slaves in Spain to preach the Gospel.
  • He could be quiet and taciturn one day, and a very good talker and storyteller the next. He usually spoke freely with Jesus, but for days at a time he was the silent man. James had many spells of unaccountable silence.
  • The outstanding feature of his personality was his ability to see all sides of a proposition. Of all the 12, he perhaps, came the nearest to grasping the real import and significance of Jesus’ teaching. He, too, was slow at first to comprehend the Master’s meaning, but once they had finished their training, he acquired a superior concept of Jesus’ message. James was able to understand a wide range of human nature; he got along well with the versatile Andrew, the impetuous Peter, and his self-contained brother John.
  • James, John and Peter, had three experiences with Jesus witnessed by no one else. They were present for the Great Transfiguration, witnessed the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, and were called aside to watch and pray with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane the night before His death.
  • James was the first apostle executed.
  •  He was not above mistakes. When a Samaritan village rejected Jesus, he and John wanted to call down fire from heaven. It was his fiery temper for which he and his brother earned the nickname Boanerges or “Sons of Thunder.”
  • It has been said that when the apostle James was led out to die, a man who brought false accusations against him walked with him to the place of execution. He doubtless expected to see James looking pale and frightened, but he saw him, instead, bright and joyous, like a conqueror who had won a great battle. The false witness greatly wondered at this and became convinced that the Savior in whom the prisoner by his side believed must be the true God. The man himself, therefore, became a convert to Christianity and was condemned to die with James. Both were consequently beheaded on the same day and with the same sword.Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 5.30.51 AM
  • One of the Camino de Santiago’s great traditions upon arriving at the cathedral in Compostela takes place at the Pillar of Many Hands where James’ image is carved into a pillar and surrounded by Christ and the other 11 apostles. For 10 centuries, pilgrims who complete the journey have placed their hand on the same spot and offer a prayer of thanks for protection and safe travel.

(Biblepath.com was a source for some information in this post.)


The Truth About Glory

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When you’ve written as many words as I have over the years, it’s kind of a big deal to set one aside as the favorite.

As the author of creation I’ve always believed God has a special love for, and kindred spirit with journalists, because of all the things he could have used to communicate with us, He chose the written word. Ink on paper.

Transcend is my second favorite word of all time. I love that word. The way it looks in print, the way it flows from the tongue, the profound meaning it conveys to move beyond that which is commonly known and understood. Transcendence is such an honorable pursuit in anything worth pursuing.

Discern is a word that ranks high on my list.  I love this word especially because it engages so much more than a simple understanding. Discernment comes with time, experience, lessons learned, relational context, and it’s a wonderful characteristic of wisdom.  During the later seasons of life, we can discern things in a transcendent manner, I believe.

Infinitesimal – a word I simply adore for its meaning (an indefinitely small quantity with a value approaching zero) and for the wonderful memories I associate with it, as it was a favorite of my old boss U.S. Rep. Marion Berry. He loved using it as a description for the intellectual abilities of so many colleagues who disagreed with him, and the descriptor was often exact. I catch myself using it in the same manner far more frequently than I should.

Here’s a clip of my old boss in rare form on the House floor. This is one of my top three favorite memories of moments of service to this great Southern legislator. He didn’t use his favorite word here, but I know he wanted to. This is worth watching if you want to get your day started with a laugh. It’s classicly known as the “Howdy Doody-Looking Nimrod” clip in reference to a Republican colleague. Debatable judgment here, but nevertheless … MB wasn’t a happy camper this day. Occasionally, if but rarely, I miss the good ole’ days like this.

But glory, oh what a wonderful word to exalt. Glory. It’s my favorite beyond all others.

In the Greek, glory is best translated as weight. So when we ascribe glory to something in balance to other things, we give it significance and importance. It’s especially relevant in the context of God’s own desire for His glorification. It takes a transcendent discernment to know this isn’t a selfish Godly characteristic, but one that’s for our own good, especially in our pursuit of truth.

And it it helps if we understand several other of God’s characteristics and engage some linear thinking.

In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.” It doesn’t say He admires the truth or respects the truth, but rather that He IS the truth.

Romans 11:32 offers enlightenment of God the Father as transcendent of our earthy understanding. Here’s an easy-to-read version of that verse:

“Yes, God’s riches are very great! His wisdom and knowledge have no end! No one can explain what God decides. No one can understand his ways.”

Read A.W.  Tozer’s thoughts on the pursuit and understanding of God the Father …  Tozer’s pretty deep:

“When we try to imagine what God is like, we must of necessity use that-which-is-not-of-God as the raw material for our minds to work on; hence, whatever we visualize God to be, He is not, for we have constructed that image out of that which He has made, and what He has made is not of God. If we insist on trying to imagine him, we end with an idol, not made with hands, but with thoughts; and an idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.”

That’s worth a lifetime of meditation.

Yet, God clearly instructs us to pursue a holy knowledge of him, and the answer is right here.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.” 2 Peter 3:18

It’s all about Jesus, and it’s a pursuit so beautiful in that it’s a never-ending quest. We can look forward to an eternity of developing a relationship with the Father, through Jesus the Son. Now, and forever. To Him be the glory, the weight, the relevance. The never-ending pursuit of truth is the glorious pursuit of Jesus.

It’s such a transcendent notion, my infinitesimal mind can barely discern it, but I’m trying.

How glorious.

Thank you, Jesus.

Vaya con Dios, for now.


Video Journal #1 T-21 Days

This is my first video journal recorded last week, and published via Facebook that day. Just wanted to get it on the blog for the archives. I’ll produce a second video this afternoon and will publish it when it’s complete. From now on, each video will go directly to the blogsite. These clips help chronicle my preparation for, and the actual pilgrimage of, the Camino de Santiago beginning on October 19.


The Truth About What You Hallow

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(Blogger’s Note: I’ll create a second video journal tomorrow about preparing for pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. It will be published here on the blog, and distributed through my personal Facebook account. If you’re not a follower, and wish to be, just click the button to the right.)

Every good thing, and every failure is traced to that which we adore most. It’s all about what we hallow. And it’s clear what God desires most from us, is not our moralistic behavior or good deeds, but our genuine adoration.

It’s contrary to everything we’ve learned and requires a change in our point of view particularly because behavior and deeds are those things which are seen (even placed on exhibition and measured), and yet, adoration is an unseen characteristic of the heart.

Just before He gives us the model for productive prayer, we read this counsel: He says, don’t be a hypocrite elevating yourself in the public places, but go away privately and close the door. And don’t babble with a long litany of fancy words. “I already know what you need,” he says. Then pray in a manner like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

The very first thing we do, is to hallow. It’s not a word you hear often, maybe because of its precise meaning – to honor, glorify and set aside as holy. The word is so unique in meaning, it survives many biblical translations.

What God wants most is our adoration. I’ll try explaining how I learned this as truth. We all adore something. It’s how we’re wired.


In my early years as a Christian hallowing God wasn’t so easy. As I wrestled daily with family responsibilities, never-ending bills and small-town pressure to climb an exhausting social ladder, everything seemed grounded in my abilities as a provider and a doer. As the storm weathered over the years, I nearly killed myself beating those necessities into submission.

Then, it became dangerously fun.

I learned how to make money. One step at a time, I surmounted the social ladder. After thousands of bylines,  attending endless social fundraisers and parties, and even my relatively good and moral standing in the church, people knew my name. I adored it.

Then, on a cool, crisp beautiful October day in 2009 it ended as if everything I set aside as holy was sucked into a black hole, never again to see the light of day. My publishing business closed. I entered a time of depression that was like nothing I’ve ever known before or since. I remember telling Dana I literally couldn’t ‘see’ tomorrow. The blindness went on for at least three years.

The money was gone, the party invitations stopped coming, there were no more bylines.

It lasted until I somehow realized one day that a real, fixed, unshakable truthScreen Shot 2015-10-04 at 6.09.17 AM must exist out there somewhere, and that it was the only thing worth really pursuing.

I can stand on a street corner as a fool working to draw attention to myself all day long, but it’s pointless. It’s what I do in private that matters. The ultimate truth is what I see in the mirror.

If you take anything from this post today, I hope you take this thought:

What you do in secret drives your view of yourself.

That’s worth some meditation. It really is.

Just yesterday, I spent nearly six hours on a 15-mile training hike for a 600-mile pilgrimage across Spain that begins in two weeks. I can tell you from the core of my soul that I spent nearly the entire time, praising and adoring the Creator. I was all alone, just a backpack and a pair of shoes, in a place, where so to speak, the door was closed.

It’s His infinite creativeness, I think, that permits me to do this, and it’s something I’m particularly drawn to on these long walks.

I’m a creative guy. I create things. Mostly words and ideas as they relate to communication. Start throwing around analytical jargon, numbers and a spreadsheet and consider me “checked out.” So when I think about God as the creator/author of all things it’s practically impossible to put my adoration elsewhere. Everything flows from that.

Moreover, when I think about the extremity and highness of His glory in creation, versus the low place where He sent his Son to pay my debts, I find no option but to hallow His name. It’s the highness of His majesty and the depth of His love and grace.

Praise and adoration is what life’s all about, and it frames the context for everything we do.

Vaya con Dios for now.


The Truth About Training

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“So, I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me.”  ~ Charles Dickens

Just about every worthwhile thing I’ve pursued involved some training.

It’s the least enjoyable aspect of any pursuit, and I’ve often wondered when I’ll find an interest that doesn’t involve some uncomfortable regimens. It takes intention to get spirit, body and mind on the same page. And it’s been the case whether I was training for a marathon, pursing an education, building a business, or making pilgrimage across a country.

These are some training elements I’ve learned through personal experience:

  • Most importantly by far, you have to know what it is you’re training for. That sounds simple enough. Ten years ago when I trained for my first marathon, the goal of running 26 miles in four hours and thirty minutes was paramount. I wanted to “beat” that time, and virtually made the clock my enemy. Fourteen months later, and four hours and fifty minutes after the starting gun at the Memphis St. Jude Marathon, I crossed the finish line physically and emotionally depleted, nearly in tears. I’d blown the goal by 20 minutes. The goal should never have been more than a pure finish. Begin at Point A. Finish at Point B. Then rejoice. That’s all I really needed to achieve. I trained completely for the wrong goal. It was a true lesson learned. My goals for trekking the Camino de Santiago next month are radically different. It’s not about a finish time. I’m working to prepare my body to deal with the discomfort of a million steps, but moreover making ready my mind and spirit for conversing with God along the way. On the camino, I hope for nothing more than “to be.”
  • For most any endeavor, training takes time. How do you eat an elephant? One small bite at a time. It’s the toughest thing in a world that calls for immediate gratification, but there’s always unknown purpose in training. It’s the very best process for self discovery, and beats lieing on a psychiatrist’s couch. I’ve done both, and far prefer the former to the latter.
  • It takes discipline. Training’s a lonely job. Everyone loves to cheer you for the big, final event, and show up for the afterparty but no one  cares about the relentless, Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 6.12.11 AMmonotonous, tedious days of training. Consistently, the best time I’ve found training for anything is between 4 and 6 a.m. You inconvenience almost no one during this time. No one’s going to set the alarm but you. Tougher yet, no one’s going to get yourself out of bed but you. If you have a “quiet time” or a daily time of devotion or just talking to God, I think early morning is the best time. It just starts the day well. Discipline is the toughest part of any training, yet so beneficial because, when mastered, it  can spill over into so many additional areas of life. Waking up is a good thing.
  • It involves lots of ups and downs and considerable discomfort. By nature, training hurts, whatever the realm of discipline. And it can have its surprises. Years ago, I couldn’t resist the lovely early Sunday evening weather to run a five-mile route along one of my favorite thoroughfares. I was listening to music, enjoying the sunset without a care in the world. The next thing I knew I was laid out flat on the sidewalk trying to put two thoughts together, wondering what the heck just happened. I’d been knocked completely unconscious by a full Dr Pepper can a couple of young guys tossed from a car moving 40 miles an hour in the opposite direction. It hit me square between the eyes. It might as well have been a comet. Probably should’ve gone to the hospital, but no one stopped to help, so I walked home, dazed and in moderate shock. Unexpected things happen during training. Highs and lows.
  • Visualization is a key, and often overlooked component in maximizing training. The hard work over the long haul is sometimes just too much to manage if you don’t see yourself crossing the finish line, holding your finished product, or imagining the joy of any job well done.  It’s so important to SEE yourself in the place of victory.
  • Training involves overcoming temptation. The notion of a Zinger with some chocolate milk crosses my mind at least once a week. Occasionally, I cave. Most times, I resist the temptation. Life involves much temptation. Recognize your temptation isn’t weakness. It’s your humanness. Jesus managed temptation through the recollection of God’s word. He came back to the truth He knew as foundational, firm and fixed. It may be the most difficult of all things we manage as we train through life.
  • The most beneficial aspect of any training regimen, may be the best and most enjoyable. It’s rest. Do you realize the time during which your body and mind get stronger? It’s when they rest. As you walk, or exert any physical energy over time, you’re actually destroying muscle tissue. You’re breaking it down. As you sleep, the muscle tissue rebuilds itself, stronger than it was before, so you can do more the next time. I love that you get stronger as you rest both your body and mind.

So many people have asked why I’m training for pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago when it’s such a long journey anyway and the body will adjust after a couple of weeks.

It’s because I want to maximize the experience and avoid as many unnecessary problems as possible. It’s an experience with the potential to reveal so many things, so minimizing the distractions is important.

It’s Sunday morning. Dana and I walked 13 miles yesterday and my physical body is enjoying rest and new strengthening. I’ll be stronger tomorrow. So, I’ll focus on my spirit today with fellowship and learning at our small church and our growing family and friends.


The Truth About Solvitur Ambulando

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It’s a phrase I’d never heard until just a few months ago. Solvitur ambulando.

A well-read and accomplished friend who’s already thru-conquered the Appalachian Trail made the simple post on a recent social media thread where I’d let the waiting world know I was out on a practice hike. Solvitur ambulando, he wrote, succinctly.

I was embarrassed not to know the Latin phrase, and too curious not to look it up. I’m sure that’s probably what he intended.

“It is solved by walking.” … solvitur ambulando. How lovely, and how true.

“The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out an inner journey. The inner journey is the interpolation of the meanings and signs of the outer pilgrimage. One can have one without the other. It is best to have both.” ~ Thomas Merton

I never even thought much about pilgrimage until the seventh grade when a social studies teacher I had a slight crush on taught about Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam where some two million religious faithful trek to Mecca each year. To a young kid who thought mostly about basketball and what was for supper, something like religious pilgrimage seemed a distant and “foreign” practice  mostly undertaken by crazed zealots in far away lands.

It was 32 years later until I made a random click on a movie simply called The Way Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 6.00.33 AMwhen I learned that pilgrimage went beyond something people pursued in biblical times. It’s actually been going on for thousands of years.  And I was hooked. I didn’t know when, or how, or even why. But it was on, and I knew it.

Emilo Estevez and father Martin Sheen teamed in 2010 to create The Way, the story of a father who heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the camino de Santiago, and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.

Along the journey he discovers the difference between “a life we live, and a life we pursue.”

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Pilgrimage – in its purest form undertaken on  foot – is, in fact, a religious rite shared by nearly all the world’s faiths.  A pilgrimage takes our shared metaphor of life as a journey, in which a lone sojourner may struggle with physical challenges, emotions, and hope through the wilderness, and turns it into a concrete, bodily experience. It converts the abstract into a tangible path, with real goals and obstacles and pain and joy.

A pilgrimage like the camino de Santiago can be as tangential as an adventure/vacation, or as solemn as a time purely dedicated to commune with God.

Whatever issue the pilgrim finds on his heart, … solvitur ambulando … it can be solved by walking.

I’ve certainly found it to be true in my training hikes. Several hours, several times a week out walking with blue skies, trees and a worn, winding footpath have freed up my mind and spirit in a way that I now covet. God and I are talking, and sharing thoughts, and I can feel His guidance taking me in a purposeful direction.  Together, we are solving things by walking. Solvitur ambulando.

It’s now 22 days to departure and the training is entering a new phase. It’s a lovely fall Saturday in Arkansas and 13 miles await.

I wonder what we’ll solve today? Solvitur ambulando.