pilgrim (n): one who undertakes a pilgrimage, literally ‘far afield’. This is traditionally a visit to a place of some religious or historic significance.

24-7 Prayer Boiler Rooms hold pilgrimage and hospitality as one of it’s six core practices. it’s one of my favorite practices (am i allowed to pick favorites?). you see, tim and i could decide next week that we want to head to Tulsa, OK, and know that there would be people there who would take us in for a while, keep us company, tell us stories of God’s faithfulness, and feed our bellies. because there is a boiler room there, and this is central to their identity, as it is to ours. Conversely, when a group from Kansas City tells us they’d like to head up this way for a visit, we’d move things around to make room for them, and pray that their time here would leave them refreshed and with renewed perspective and a sense of connection to brothers and sisters and to God. you can see why this is one of my favorite boiler room practices.

our last week has had a pilgrim theme. in four parts:

  1. tim’s old college pals, sara and kelley, came over from milwaukee to stay a mere 24 hours. but in those hours, we told stories about what God is doing in our cities, elicited one another’s dreams, and remembered shared experiences from the past. when they left, they said they felt refreshed and renewed in their vision, which is exactly what i would have hoped for. but the gift was mutual. because, for me, something in me came back to life as i walked with them around our neighborhood and told stories about the origins of the boiler room, the things God is teaching us here, and the friends who fill the houses on these streets. i’ve been feeling so disinterested and unaffected by life here, lacking in zeal and perspective, but as i started to tell the stories, i began to remember that this is good, that God has brought us here, and that He is moving. and then came the joy. i’m grateful to sara and kelley for giving me a chance to remember God’s story. and now i will be tracking their unfolding story of finding a place to call home in a broken milwaukee neighborhood with heightened interest.
  2. sarah w, who is from here, but who has been living in LA and KC for the last two years, found herself “stuck” back here in GR for a couple of month with health concerns and no clearance from the Lord to move on. she is my most transitory friend, a pilgrim in the truest sense. sometimes she doesn’t even have a place other than her car to call home, but she moves with the Spirit. i’ve learned to hold loosely to my time with her, because i understand that He could call her onward again at any time. that’s how she rolls. but for these two months, when i was freshly moved back to GR, sarah and our friend kely and i got together nearly every week. the Lord surprised us with this sweet fellowship, prayers for one another, sympathy of spirit, commonality in friendship…. and all so timely. it was like a well of living water refreshing me each time. sarah stopped by the other night, on her way out of town to KC (yup, He’s moving her onward again). and as we prayed together she thanked God for the gifts in short seasons.
  3. mary (not her real name), the 80-year-old polish woman who lives next door to the boiler room, who persisted in beautifying her yard with flowers when no one else in the neighborhood cared for their own, who baked us pączek by the dozens, who celebrated my marriage, who came over for dinner sometimes, who caught squirrels and made us drive them to a park to live somewhere other than her garden… this dear woman had a stroke last week. and yesterday morning she passed away. we got to visit her in the hospital last week. though she wasn’t conscious, we talked to her anyway, and laughed at memories with her, and told her that we loved her. and i believe that she heard us. the sweetest thing, though, was being able to say good-bye to her with confidence that she was going Home. she has longed for it, and she was ready. i don’t think that she was afraid. before we left her room danmike prayed over her “I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:27)” and he added, “i’m jealous.” so though this neighborhood will be void of several bright slashes of color because mary isn’t here with us, and though my throat tightens with threatened tears as i write this, my heart is so happy that she get to see His face. at last. and her leaving reminds me that she and we have never been anything other than pilgrims here.
  4. trent sheppard and nathan chud came through last night for the God on Campus tour. it was tim’s relational connections with nate, and his organizational ties with Campus America that led to us initiating a tour stop here in GR. before this, they had just come from madison and lacrosse, bringing news and stories of our mutual friends in those places. the bridge street house of prayer hosted it at their Pavilion and there were students from about 5 different campuses present. beforehand, Trent and Nate and Nate’s brother Aaron joined the boiler room core team for a family dinner at the boiler room. i got to cook for us all: black bean and butternut squash soup with a green salad and warm bread (one of my favorite ways to love on pilgrims is to feed them!). and sitting around that table, laughing, telling stories, connecting, speaking kindly to one another… later tony said it was like meeting some great cousins you didn’t know you had. i never cease to be gratefully astonished at the similarity of DNA that God has put in His kids, and how much like family it really can seem when we are together in one place. the God on Campus event was great (so very good, so very much inspiring to lean into the dreams of God for students and campuses), but it was this time to just be with each other that really warmed us all, i think. we found ourselves wishing that their stay could be longer, and our conversations more enduring. but this morning they took their leave. they are pilgrims, too.

to welcome pilgrims is a rich, rich blessing that i would not forgo.

to be a pilgrim, journeying and then taking refuge in the hospitality of another, reminds us of our true nature.

we’re all headed Home.


ps: jenn wrote about mary today, too. and you should read it.


5 thoughts on “pilgrims

  1. I am so sad to hear of Mary’s death! I so enjoyed our over-the-fence chats about her beautiful flowers. She loved them, even though she didn’t know all of them by name. How much more God loved her and has called her home by name. I see so clearly the beautiful bouquet of dahlias, one as large as a plate, that she lovingly slipped into Brooke and Tim’s wedding decor. The beauty that she slipped into the Stockbridge neighborhood will be sorely missed.

  2. This reminds me again not to hold tightly to relationships here (and I do need reminding)–that God can choose to encourage you (or have you encourage someone) through a meeting of minds that lasts for decades, or just a few minutes, and that the duration isn’t as important as the Person who sent us to each other. I love thinking that in Heaven one of the things we will do is meet up with people again and compare notes about how God was glorified because of exactly how much time we spent together. As C.S. Lewis once said, “Christians never say good-bye”–not in an ultimate sense.

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