Have you ever met Jesus on the Road? A Blog for the not so faint of heart.

What I mean by the not so faint of heart is that this blog is lengthy.  So, please, my dear Siestas, don’t get ticked at me and tell me how long it is.  If you aren’t interested in reading a long post, just skip to the latter half of the blog and you’ll get the basic drift.  I just got my April 2009 Christianity Today in the mail and the title “He Talked to Us on the Road: The Surprising Rewards of Christian Travel” (written by Ted Olsen) immediately caught my eye.  Let me tell you, Ted Olsen works it in this staunch article.  He had my mind going about a million different directions. 

The beginning of the cover story begins with a quote by Martin Luther in the year 1520 “All pilgrimages should be done away with…For there is no good in them, no commandment, but countless causes of sin and of contempt of God’s commandments.  These pilgrimages are the reason for there being so many beggars, who commit numberless villainies.” (qtd. on page 23).  In typical Luther fashion, he states his opinion in the most absolute form possible, but it is significant that he relents a little bit by then going on to say, as Olsen points out: “I say this not because pilgrimages are bad but because they are ill-advised at the time” (24). 

 Just in case you are type-a… Dictionary.com (since we are all about the world wide web in the blogsphere) defines a pilgrimage as “a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion”.

So far, we are here: Luther says there is nothing good in a pilgrimage, not because a pilgrimage is in itself a bad thing, but because within his own historical context they were more than unhelpful, for they even led some to sin.  I just want to get off track and paint a picture for you a little bit- Luther was faced with serious stuff.  For instance, he was dealing with the likes of Johann Tetzel who was arguably the most “brilliant” seller of indulgences.  Some might argue that he would fit quite well in our modern-day American economic system.  Tetzel had systematic programs to lure people into buying indulgences and these programs often incorporated relics- for example, the bones of various saints or martyrs.  These relics were collected and believed by the masses to be salvifically efficacious- like they could release souls from purgatory, or at least limit the horrific sentence.  Carter Lindberg in The European Reformations, explains well how serious the situation was in Luther’s time: “The very effort of late medieval theology and pastoral practice to provide security only led an insecure world to more insecurity and uncertainty about salvation…The Christian’s life of pilgrimage toward the heavenly city was increasingly perceived, literally and not just theologically, as an economy of salvation…This theology, however, enhanced the crisis because it threw people back upon their own resources.  That is, no matter how grace-assisted their good works, the burden of proof for these works feel back upon the performers, the more sensitive of whom began asking how they could know if they had done their best” (Lindberg, 60).  I think Lindberg paints the picture well.  Let me summarize this: Common folk, like you and me, who knew how jacked up they really were began to feel relieved that someone out there could help them on what seemed to be an impossibly harsh spiritual quest.  So when Tetzel and others like him would offer the means of salvation through various relics, they were overwhelmingly grateful.

Martin Luther who was a professor in Wittenberg went to a church whose Prince (Frederick the Wise) had gathered within it one of the largest relic collections in the area, supposedly 19,000 pieces- for example, there were apparently pieces of the burning bush… milk from Mary (um…that is so so gross)… all the way to a piece from Jesus’ very crib (see Carter Lindberg, The European Reformations, 61).  Interestingly enough, Prince Frederick the Wise forbid Johann Tetzel to enter Wittenberg with all of his relics and indulgences because Frederick with his own tail on the line “did not want competition for his own relic collection with its associated indulgences” (The European Reformations, 75).  But, the really astonishing part is that “Luther’s parishioners overcame this inconvenience by going out to Tetzel” (Lindberg, 75). 

Well, of course, Luther was horrified when his parishioners returned and said they no longer needed confession, penance, and the mass because now they had tickets to heaven (Lindberg, 75).   Now, this is a serious pastoral dilemma.  Especially if you’re one of the few people in the world at the time who could actually read Greek and Hebrew, and therefore knew these behaviors were out of the bounds of Scripture.  What was all the more sickening was that most of the people who bought these indulgences were peasants who didn’t have the money to spare in the first place.  These supposed tickets to heaven often took advantage of the poorest.  At the end of the day, Luther simply despised the thought of a person trying to attain salvation through various human strategies- whether these strategies were pilgrimages, indulgences, etc. So you get the point…Luther was obviously justified in his day for being opposed to pilgrimage…but now I am being redundant and annoying.    

But now back to the article in Christianity Today– Olsen switches the focus from Luther’s own historical situation to our modern horizon.  He says simply but powerfully, “The time has changed.”  So often we have a hard time understanding that what is right for one generation of Christians may not necessarily be right for another.  For example, the earliest Christians worshipped in the Synagogue.  But, that doesn’t mean that we should leave our churches and head to our local synagogues.  In the same vein, what was right for the peasants in Wittenberg is not necessarily right for all of us, because, as Olsen said, the time has changed.  I think this is why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide us in wisdom and knowledge.  But moving right along.  Olsen quotes Luther scholar Graham Tomlin saying, “It’s been possible after several centuries to disentangle pilgrimage from the works righteousness that Luther so disapproved of, so that now Protestants can go on pilgrimages –though most often, they don’t call them that- without any sense that they are earning God’s favor for doing so,” (24).  Graham Tomlin (not Chris Tomlin!) says that for most people, the pilgrimages are like study tours or holidays with a spiritual dimension (24).  But pilgrims are not mere ‘tourists’ but set off with the intention to experience the divine. And I LOVE what Olsen goes on to say: “Fewer pilgrims today travel in order to escape punishment for their sins, but the temptation to spiritual pride on such journey is strong as ever.  Religious travel has thrown a kind of spiritual trump card on the table.  An eagerness for such distinction misses how manufactured the quest for “authentic” spiritual experience on the road can be, or how transformative an organized excursion can become” (25).

Have you ever noticed this phenomenon?  It’s like in the movie Mona Lisa Smile when they are horrified that Julia Roberts’ character claims to be a professor of art even though she has never seen the Sistine Chapel.  We see this often in our own worlds as well- if a Christian hasn’t been to Jerusalem then he or she has a two-dimensional vision of the biblical text while those who have had this privilege may as well be wearing three-dimensional Scripture goggles.  I wish they could just bring us all a pair home, ya know? It would be a heck of a lot cheaper.  Well, even though this appears to be an annoying contemporary struggle we sometimes encounter…it shouldn’t keep us from setting out on ‘pilgrimage’, for as Olsen says, “We are not just minds created to soak up knowledge.  We are bodies that stand in one place at a time, seeing and feeling our surroundings” (26). 

This article bring us the best of both worlds, for it elevates the significance and rewards of Christian travel while also stressing the importance of our homes and local churches, which are equally as holy.  Graham Tomlin says: “Pilgrimages, just like Christian conferences, can also lead to disparagement of the local in favor of the big and global.  But if they lead to rediscovery of Jesus, the incarnate Word, they can lead to a renewed appreciation of the ordinary people and places that make up real live churches.  At least, well-led pilgrimages, and conferences can do that” (29). I just love that.  Believe me, I am a huge conference fan.  I have been to Moody’s Founder’s Week conferences, Passion conferences and even Living Proof Live conferences and gone out with revitalized energy for God more times than I can count.  There is just something so wonderfully overwhelming about worshipping with a vast gathering of believers.  I think that is the point- conferences are great when they stimulate fresh passion for Christ and then cause us each to go back to our local communities and churches with a renewed fervor but NOT when they make us unhappy and dissatisfied with our local churches.  The same goes for pilgrimages.  We don’t go to the island of Patmos to see where John penned the book of Revelation to get a spiritual fix so that we come back home where we are bored with our little town and church up the road.  We go for a unique spiritual experience that will enhance the life and community to which we are journeying back.

Olsen’s essay goes out with a serious bang, for he says: “Those who best journey today may not be those who are talking about their trips to Jerusalem, or to Iona, or to Santiago…They are probably those who talk about living and ministering in Overland Park or Beacon Hill.  Those who are thinking about the space they inhabit as holy land.  Those who have returned from Emmaus and understand that God doesn’t only meet us on the road.  Theirs is the God who said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them.” A God who travels.  And a God who dwells.  A God who has made the whole world his holy land because he has made his people a holy people.”  (29)

One of the reasons this article resonated with me is because I went on a spiritual pilgrimage the summer of 2004 when I was at Moody Bible Institute (which we indeed called a “study tour”) with the aim of tracing the European Reformers.  It was life changing for me.  We studied the English Reformation in England, the German/Lutheran Reformation in Wittenberg, Calvin’s Reformation in Geneva, and the Swiss Reformation begun by Zwingli in Zurich and the Anabaptist Reformations thereafter, and then we ended with the Catholic Counter-Reformation taught straight from Vatican Square.  That trip was supposed to be all about me learning about church history- and I did- but more significantly, it was during that trip that I felt turmoil in my heart over a relationship I was in.  An engagement, actually.  Surely enough, we broke up the day I returned from the trip.  I had barely even gotten off the plane.  The Lord, rich in mercy, and slowly but surely, through several various awe-inspiring moments during the course of that trip, planted courage in my heart to prepare mentally for the end of a relationship that I knew was going to be one of the most excruciating emotional seasons of my life. 

Another equally life-changing moment for me on that trip took place in a little church outside of Berlin.  A small church was hosting us for a few days before we traveled elsewhere and we stayed right there on the church property.  And when I say small, I mean, like I think there were thirty to fifty people in the church.  The church in Germany, at least generally speaking, is persecuted socially.  Not physically, buy socially.  Christians really aren’t super cool in Germany.  Kids apparently don’t sport the WWJD bracelets there in hopes to obtain positive attention.  The particular church we were staying with was struggling emotionally and financially but they showed us hospitality that I have rarely experienced in the States.  They invited us to join in a worship service with them and I will never forget one of the songs that we sang.  It was “Shine, Jesus, Shine” by Graham Kendrick.  You’ve probably heard it before.  The chorus goes like this: 

Shine, Jesus, shine

Fill this land with the Father’s glory

Blaze, Spirit, blaze

Set our hearts on fire

Flow, river, flow

Flood the nations with grace and mercy

Send forth your word

Lord, and let there be light.

And I sat weeping in the back of the church.  That little church sang that song like the eschaton was coming the very next day.  Like the time was really near.  It was just so pure and urgent.  And I couldn’t stop crying.  I had to excuse myself. I’ve only ever told one person this story.  But here I am on a blog, about to tell all of you.  This is why- because a small group of us snobby students, the intellectual types who would actually pay gobs of money to trace the European Reformations during our summer break, had just been mocking this very song a few days before.  I am not exaggerating any of this; we were mocking that very song “Shine, Jesus, Shine” by Graham Kendrick.  We were making comments about the lack of substance in the song and how catchy it was, and I don’t mean in a good way. I mean in a bad and processed cheese kind of way.  Why? Because apparently we thought we were the sophisticated intellectual types with ears fit only for the lofty hymns and complex choral traditions that flow out of the hallowed halls of Westminster Cathedral.  I mean we had in fact sat in on Evensong at that stately cathedral just days before, but never mind that most of us were well under twenty-two years old and had zero idea what were talking about, right?

Let me tell you.  That song, “Shine, Jesus, Shine” brings tears to my eyes and chills up my spine every single time I hear it.  That little church in Germany meant what they were singing.  They needed Jesus to shine in their land and they needed the Spirit to blaze and at that moment that little church in Germany spoke louder to me than all the other enormous world-renowned churches that we had visited.  I had spoken careless words and engaged in pompous banter and the Lord kindly chastised this child of His in a way she would never forget.  He made that ‘cheesy’ song come alive and dance with the depth and glory of a symphony.  Calvin’s Church, St. Peter’s Basilica, Canterbury Cathedral, etc…well, I’m glad I saw them, but none of carved an entirely new contour on my heart like that little church outside Berlin.

Well before I say Hasta Luego, Siestas, just a couple more things:

First, check out the article by Ted Olsen in Christianity Today some time soon.  Even though I didn’t attempt to summarize his article, I do admit that I did not even come close to capturing the entirety of his message. My blog is faux, so go get the real thing.

Second, I want some feedback on some of your travel experiences…is there a place where you experienced God’s presence in a unique and lasting way?  A moment you have pondered in your heart until this very day?  Talk to me, I want to hear about it.  And if you haven’t been able to travel enough to satisfy you, where would you like to go?  Is there a place with specific spiritual significance that you would like to set out…if you could?

Be blessed,


P.S. The picture above is random, I know, but it actually really reminds me of my trip to Europe and all the amazing church art and stained glass we saw. 


201 Responses to “Have you ever met Jesus on the Road? A Blog for the not so faint of heart.”

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  1. 51
    Anonymous says:

    I have the absolute blessing of living in Oregon, about 1 1/2 hours away from the Oregon Coast. Last summer I went to the beach for a weekend getaway with a friend of mine. We stayed at a very quaint little bed and breakfast. We had a room that had THE MOST AMAZING view of the ocean. When I walked into that room and looked out of that ENORMOUS window at God’s AMAZING creation i was in awe of Him like I have never been IN MY LIFE! That whole weekend was filled with worship music like I’ve never heard before. I was moved to compulsery praise like haver before. I felt like Peter must have felt at the Mt. Of Transfiguation when he said “It is good for us to be here. Let us make three tabernacles; one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah!”. Luke 9:33. It then said, he did not know what he was saying. Oh, I wanted to stay on that mountian with Jesus. But, like Peter, I did not know what I was saying. I’m still in the process of learning that I MUST come down from that mountian in order to relate to and minister to others in my ordinary everyday life. And to allow God to minister to and teach me things in the valley that I can’t learn on the mountian. He is so gracious to me, though. One time, many years ago, I asked Him to just tell me every once in a while that He sees me and is with me while I’m thick in the middle of my ordinary routine of life. Every once in a while while I’m making dinner, packing lunches, doing laundry, or cleaning house I’ll hear Him whisper in my spirit, “I see what you are doing and I’m with you. I haven’t missed one second.” God is faithful. That is what keeps me going with Him. My flesh still desires that mountian, but I need to grow. (DARN IT ALL!) God will will be with me wherever I go, though. ;o) AND… I get to go back to that same spot with my same friend in that same room this summer for THREE nights and days. I can’t wait!

  2. 52
    phillipsgirl says:

    I would love to worship on a mountain again someday with people who are meaningful in my life. I love nature, and there’s just something about seeing for such a long distance and knowing God’s awesomeness and bigness and then praising him for it.

  3. 53
    Anonymous says:

    Ya know Melissa I purchased the videos of Esther from LifeWay because I knew that you and Amanda had helped with that bible study. Your posts are wonderful, thought-provoking posts and because of this, I knew that Esther would be thought-provoking as well!! My curiosity got the best of me! 😉

    Thanks for your insight!

  4. 54
    Anonymous says:

    The Snake

    Did you ever hear of Satan –
    or are you unbeliever?
    Did you ever laugh deridingly and prove him archdeceiver?
    Did you ever hear of Calvary
    and shrug – “Why should I care”?
    Did you ever care that God’s one Son was mutilated there?
    Did you ever see an empty cross and face an empty tomb?
    Did you know He rose the victor o’er the snake and hell and doom?
    Did you ever join His army, did you ever take your shield?
    Did you ever march out sword in hand onto the battle field?
    Did you ever find the ranks grow thin the worse the fight became?
    Did you ever watch men in retreat: the blind, the halt, the lame?
    Did you ever notice nearer Christ the arrows thicker land?
    Did you ever see the impact in His side, His feet, His hand?
    Did you ever fully realize that Christ died without protection?
    That you may have His armor, not act traitor by defection?
    Did you ever wonder why He waits and tolerates lukewarmness?
    And your pitiful rebellion and your coldness and your hardness?
    And your casual indifference and your hunger for possessions?
    Did you know He stops the arrows by his constant intercession?
    Did you ever thank your Jesus, did it ever break your heart?
    Did you ever go out fighting and decide to play your part?
    If you ever get around to war and put your armor on,
    Then the snake will be defeated to the glory of God’s Son.

    (from Jill Briscoe, “There’s A Snake in my Garden”)

  5. 55
    Keri says:

    Yosemite National Park in California is always a great experience for me. I feel so close to God in that park! For me it is the greatest display of His Glory that I have seen here on earth. Every time I visit the park I am in awe of our Creator.

  6. 56
    michellemabell says:

    Melissa, Thank you for such a beautiful post.
    I have been tremendouly blessed reading through the responses.

    Mine is a simple one, but one I will never forget.
    I had to fly to Europe while I was 7 months pregnant and was having a terrible time up in that 9 hour turbulent flight. God came so near that night; I knew He was holding me as I was singing Christmas Carols. Mind you it was end of summer but they were the only songs that came to mind to sing or humm.
    It’s so hard to try and recapture what was happening on that flight, but I will never hear Hark the Herald or Silent Night or Joy to the World again without thinking of that flight and the peace of God that just filled my soul and calmed that baby that was moving so wildly inside!

    Love and Blessings,

    Michelle in VT

  7. 57
    Anonymous says:

    I have never been outside the USA. I have seen my share or tourists in the USA from other countries. I have also traveled within the USA.

    One thing that has struck me on all trips away from home is….how similar we all are. Talk about seeing Jesus on the road…all you have to do is embark on a conversation with someone and you discover how “real” the Jesus is, how similar we all are and how close in life’s journey to eternity the body of Christ really is.

    I am always fascinated by the similarities and differences of people….their talents, skills, and gifts, but what is more striking is how we are all on this earth for the same reason….to have fellowship with God and each other until the “gathering up” happens!!

  8. 58
    Georgia Jan says:

    Melissa: I am blown away by this post – you have more passion and depth in your pinky finger than women twice – thrice your age. You amaze me young woman. Thank you for your honest heart and for sharing your worship experience in the little church in Germany.

    I have not travelled much, but there is a place that I go back to often in my mind – and that is to my Granny’s home. I have the sweetest memories of being at my paternal grandmother’s – sitting by her on the piano bench as she played those great old hymns as she sang alto (loudly). Even the smells are still so real to me – her little gas heater with the flickering pilot light, the old creaky floors, the musty odor of a lot of old books, and the dampness of her house as it sat amongst some old trees. She was what some call a “shoutin’ Baptist” and she use to embarrass me when I would go to church with her as a little girl – and a teen. But what I wouldn’t give to spend more time with her now – without pride or embarrassment. I have her old Bible – with all it’s underlinings and notes in her shaky hand. There was a richness about being near her – a spiritualness that I long for. She was a praying woman and I felt the presence of Jesus every time I was with her.

    Thank you my friend.
    Mrs. Jan

  9. 59
    sharoni says:

    There are two that are markedly astounding for me…the first experience was in the '70s, my college years, the Holy Spirit blowing places wide open with the love of God all over the place and one of those places was this church in Houston – Church of the Redeemer. Amazing community…amazing love of God, and the worship…WOW! I remember driving down from Fort Worth with a bunch of buddies and a set of parents, walking into that cram-packed sanctuary, and just about falling on my face from the presence of the Lord…I had a hard time breathing because it was so overwhelming…simple….just love. We "transplanted" to Houston from Colorado this January & I desperately wanted to visit that church again…..no disappointment there…simple love…no overwhelming feeling this time, just a sweet "shower" of God's precious love and several people still there from my previous visits! Isn't this cool?
    The other incredible encounter was December 2006 at a beautiful old church in Manhattan. It was World Aids Day & I was blessed to be there to help prepare caregiver packages for those wonderful women in African villages who minister to those who suffer from AIDS. I had an unknown number of days to live myself due to liver cancer, so this was a true gift to be able to do something – anything – for someone else. The Brooklyn Youth Choir was there with us and closed their concert with an acapella version of "Let There Be Peace on Earth"…one of the most beautiful renditions I have ever heard in my life! Again…couldn't breathe…overwhelmed with emotion this time, but all of a sudden I felt Holy Spirit all around me and a simple, "You're ok"…that's all He said, but instantly I knew that my length of days on this earth had just been extended. I knew I was healed…completely.
    I was right! Follow up biopsies confirming just that…but the journey on that road has been one of the sweetest of my 53 years of life. I have walked with God for 53 years and every one just gets better and better! There have been many, many road trips with Jesus and I encourage all of us to continue them…many of the best are walks around your own yard in His presence…remember how much Jesus loved gardens? Oh yeah!!

  10. 60
    Anonymous says:

    Jesus at the beach: where I visited my grandparents each summer when I was a child in a little town called Manasquan, NJ.
    Eight years ago, my grandmother (who was my best friend) passed away. I traveled back to Manasquan for her funeral. I was devastated. I walked along the beach and prayed and cried out to God. I have always loved to hunt for seashells. On this particular beach, you always find the typical sandstone colored large clam shells. I have a ton of them as souveniers. But this time was different. I looked down and just saw a tip of a odd looking shell. It was buried in the sand. I picked it up. It was the most beautiful pastel colored, beautifully curved shaped shell I had ever seen.
    Instantly, I knew that God had saved that shell for me as a sign that I was going to be okay, that He was with me, and that the shell represented my grandma’s love for me as well as God’s love for me. I asked God, “Is this from you?”. I felt a strong confirmation in my heart that yes, God and I had a strong bonding moment as my best friend passed on but God would fill that void to overflowing with His love. The shell sits in a special cabinet as a reminder of that special moment.

  11. 61
    Becky @ Farmgirl Paints says:

    When I was in high school my church took a group to England on a choir tour. We visited John Wesley’s church and home and it was really interesting and moving. He was so on fire for the Lord and so misunderstood it was an honor to see where the movement began for him.

    Sadly most of the churches we went to over there were really dead and spooky. It definitely opened my eyes to a spiritual realm I hadn’t experienced until then.

  12. 62
    Anonymous says:

    I am always fascinated by your blogs and feel informed. I would love to sit with you over coffee one day and chat. I would love to pick your brain about the different Christian denominations and how you found yourself in your particular denomination which I assume is Baptist but obviously could be wrong since I am only assuming 🙂 I have best friends of different denominations and am fascinated by each one’s choice. I love Jesus and will rejoice when he comes and “religion” dies.
    In college I struggled with bulimia. But one summer I went on a summer missions trip in the US helping with VBS in the west and was able to stop my bulimia acts and found peace with Christ.

  13. 63
    Warm in Alaska says:

    Hey Melissa – (I’ll have you know I had to drive across town to a computer cafe – where I can use their computers b/c I so wanted to read your post but knew if I stayed at home to do so – I would be “Mommyied” to distraction – not a bad thing; just not the best condition for reading through your post). So, to answer your questions:

    1. My most recent pilgrimage? Across town to a cafe. Downside of this excursion? While there don’t appear to be any trinkets or relics to purchase, I did experience a moment of weakness when I smelled the coffee. Sixteen ounces later, you can rest assured that I won’t be late tonight (resting, that is). I will only have you and your very long and lovely post to blame (that was a joke – I’m never sure if blogs carry a joke as well as real time).

    2. I know this makes me sound so schmarmy (did I just make up a word?) but really, I have to say Jerusalem is my most favorite place – but I have a great epiphany lesson the Lord graciously taught me my first two hours in the city – and it goes to the heart of debunking what you described in your post (esp. in regards to Jerusalem and that being such a “Teacher’s Pet” sort of spot to visit).

    In 1986 I was a student in Israel for five months. Our first month was living with host families in and around Tel Aviv. (slight tangent here: my host family — brace b/c I really am about to brag — was, and is, the MOST SPECTACULAR ISRAELI FAMILY EVER. God was so gracious to put me in my Israeli family. Long story short: we’re still tightly connected, just got an email from my Israeli sister yesterday; the family has been to Alaska a number of times (and they don’t think it’s warm at all); and my sister accepted Yeshua as her Messiah a number of years ago).

    Back to story. So, I’d been in Israel for a couple days and as you might imagine, it was driving me to total distraction to know I was about an hour away from Jerusalem. Oh how I wanted to see the Mount of Olives and etc., etc., etc. (you can fill in all the blanks – Temple, Old City, Golgotha, you name it). My sister said she’d take me on the bus since the college program I was with wasn’t slated to visit for a few more days.

    We took the bus and ended up in the main bus station of West Jerusalem (for anyone who’s been, it’s right as you come into the City). We got off the bus and were waiting to connect up with a friend of my sister. We ended up waiting for about two hours. I was starting to get frustrated – and then frustrated at myself for getting frustrated. I was itching to get me my “spiritual experience goosebump moment” standing atop the Mt of O – maybe at the very spot where Jesus ascended. How come this friend of my new Israeli sister couldn’t hightail it to the bus depot?

    I can’t quite recall if my epiphany happened right then, or if it came later when I could hear the Lord better; but this was the realization and I’ll paraphrase it from how I recollect it, which was Jesus speaking to me:

    “Jerusalem is so special, so very, very unique because of the people you were bumping into and rubbing shoulders with at the bus station. Those people don’t know Me yet – but you do. My heart is for this city because of the people who live inside her streets. Yes, I love Jerusalem for all it’s historical and prophetic purposes; but my heart is for the people. If you want my heart for Jerusalem, get my heart for the people of Jerusalem: the hurried Orthodox Jew, hustling to prayer at the Western Wall; the Palestinian boys playing kickball; the Bedouin women selling their carrots and onions; the secular Israeli dressed to the nines and out on the town; the young soldier. Do you want to simply walk where I walked; or do you want my heart for people transplated in you? Because I can do that a lot better in a bus station than I can while you stand weeping and waving your hanky from the top of the Mount of Olives.”

    I have always cherished that conversation with the Lord because it applies everywhere. His heart is as for the Inupiat Eskimos who live above the Arctic Circle here in my home state, as it is for the street children of Sao Paulo, and the professional hunters in Zimbabwe and the taxi cab drivers in Seoul, and everyone in Jerusalem.

    Oh, how I love Jesus.

    (Okay, it’s time for me to pilgrimage my way back across town where my family will be wondering where Mom is and what’s for dinner; and while I feel perfectly comfortable blaming you, dear Melissa, for the caffeine; I think it may be a stretch to blame you for a hungry family).

    (that was another joke – or at least an attempt at one).

    Thanks for all your excellent thinking and writing.

    Warm in Alaska.

  14. 64
    hisfivefooter says:

    At the risk of somehow topping you in length or at least competing with you, here goes. It sounds rather like, “Believe it…or not”
    I was in a small town in Idaho, Kellogg to be exact. I had been going over there to pick up my husband who was in a failed business attempt: all was lost…
    He was very distraught, but I was rejoicing, because on that very trip, all alone driving over from Seattle, in Post Falls (the border)I knew I had “crossed my Jordan” so to speak. In fact, called LPM and left a message on the recorder telling them all to rejoice with me, I had crossed. Well, moving right along.
    That night, it was a Wednesday night, I felt led to find a Bible study. I was very drawn to a small Baptist church that reminded me so much of a church I had grown up in back in El Cajon, California. Anyway, went to the church early, but doors locked. Spent the next hour or so driving around to all these small denominational churches slipping in and wondering if this was where I was supposed to be. God was calling, you see. Ended up going back to the small Baptist church. The lights were on and I went in, only to hear a traveling preacher tell the 6 people there (including the pastor) that someone would be coming in the door who would help bring the “Light” to the very dark (and I mean spiritually and literally)Silver Valley. In I walk. I am blown away by the pastor who was preaching out of a KJV and was very eloquent. He asked for prayer and up I went and we started praying. I met this wonderful missionary pastor and his wife and the next day my husband and I spent the whole day with them sharing our “journey”. We go home to Seattle, this was in September, and life goes on. The Lord starts putting on my heart that I am going to be in my little church in El Cajon, California (hadn’t been there in 20 years) and that I was going to be praying on the left side altar with a dark haired woman and that it would be a “Gilgal” experience. I had no money to go, and I didn’t know when this would happen. That spring (April) God moved huge mountains and my family (my husband, me and our three girls)ended up in San Diego for spring break. I drove up to the small church, but it was locked and I figured, oh well..I just won’t push it. That Sunday night I felt God calling me back there, and I drove up and it was open and I went into the back. The pastor was speaking to about 6 people and I waited for the service to get over. I went in and introduced myself as the former pastor’s grandaughter and that my parents had been missionaries sent by that church. In fact, our prayer card was still in the back on a bulletin board, go figure. Anyway, I met him and his beautiful dark haired wife, who looked at me and said, “would you like to pray with me?” I followed her to the left side altar with a shiver of anticipation going down my spine about how the LORD was going to show up. Sure enough, He did! We started praying and it just fell, and I mean fell. We prayed for the church, her health, etc. I was just bawling at the end of how good He was. As we got up from praying and went back to her husband I asked them how long they were going to be at the church. They told me that until they were released, but after that, they were feeling called to follow their son who with his wife and another couple had felt called to a small area in Idaho called the Silver Valley to be a worship pastor, he just didn’t know what the church was that he was supposed to be serving in was…I had a chill just go down my spine. I knew! I told them, “I know where he is supposed to be!” I was so excited I could hardly speak. They were completely shocked and I mean shocked that I knew all about Kellogg and the Silver Valley. I said,” You need to contact the Baptist church there; here, let me write it down…” I reached into my purse and pulled out a pen…and started laughing (God is funny sometimes), it was the very pen from the First Baptist Church in Kellogg, Idaho with the address and phone number written right on it! I just handed her the pen, told her to tell her son, hugged her and we had our picture taken together. I left after that with so much rejoicing and praise I could hardly drive. My girls witnessed the whole thing (15,11,and 9)He met me there. Someday, all these circles will come full circle, I don’t know how or when…but I feel so blessed that He allowed me to be part of it. I am Believing
    Him for the rest…
    Love you..
    Lisa in Kirkland, WA

  15. 65
    Mercy4Drew says:

    Melissa, have you been discussing this with my husband? He is reformed to the bone but thrives in the Spirit of the “small” things we miss in our American churches! We recently were in the UK visiting our dtr and went to the chapel where Spurgeon preached. It was just a small building compared to the great Cathedrals we had seen. No tourist or cameras. But it was not a relic as many of the other great reformation churches. So in the mist and rain of London, we stood humbly thanking God for the great preachers, teachers and pastors that have gone before and the pilgrimage we have set our hearts upon!

  16. 66
    Taylor says:


    This was so good. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your heart…you encourage me so much.

    Also, I’m not sure how any of this is going to come out but for the longest time, I’ve wanted to tell you a specific way the Lord has used you in my life…

    He asked me to walk away from a relationship about a year and half ago, September 2007. It was, as you said, one of “the most excruciating emotional seasons of my life.” About January 2008, I heard a small part of a lesson by your mom from the book of Romans. In it, she spoke of you in an example…it was something to the effect of you saying that you would rather not be married than to settle for someone to love you less than Curtis loves Amanda.(I hope I did not get that completely wrong!) And somehow, by the context, it was obvious that you were no longer engaged…oh, she spoke of you returning the wedding gifts but getting to keep a tea set from someone dear in your life. And how you prominently displayed that tea set in your apartment. I knew the Lord ordained it for me to hear…”Taylor, I’m faithful,” He continued to tell me from every direction.

    Flash forward a month..February 2007 and the blog posts began to speak of your wedding. 🙂 Somehow, in me knowing that tid bit of information…that you too had experienced such heartache…and then to see that you were getting married (and seemed absolutely beside yourself)…it blessed me like nothing else.

    I knew that He was Faithful but then to see, from afar off, a tiny glimpse of His faithfulness in your life…Melissa, it could make me cry now! I was so happy for you on your wedding day!

    I’m still waiting and have no idea what the future may hold. I just wanted to share this with you because He really used you so specifically as one of the “several various awe-inspiring moments,” of assuring me along the way that He knew where I was, what He had asked of me, and that He knew the future. I’m so thankful all of that is still true today!

    Please feel free not to post this comment…I just thought it was a good opportunity to share with you. Thank you, Melissa. I love you, in Christ. May we always walk obediently before Him…He really knows the plan He has for us, doesn’t He?

    Love, Taylor

  17. 67
    cspann says:

    A few years ago, my husband and two oldest children and I traveled to San Antonio, Texas as part of our summer vacation. We drove around aimlessly for quite a while before finding our hotel and then finally deciding to stop in at the Alamo just before it closed. We went inside and only had a few minutes to look around. The short time was already working on my spirit and then I began to look at the names of the men who died fighting that battle. I kept reading them and just couldn’t take my eyes off them. I was awestruck. I felt like I was treading on sacred ground and being allowed to touch not just their names, but their lives. My eyes teared as my soul began to weep. I praised God with reverence and gratitude for these men who fought passionately for others, for me. They lived in the time and place designated for them and I believe most of them followed their God when He called, even to death. My life is different because of their lives. I am a native Texan and thanks to them, a native American. Yes, they lost the battle, but they didn’t lose the war. I did feel like I was allowed to experience God in walking through this fort where they had died. And I came back to my small town with more reverence for this ground and those who paved the path for me to live here now. I was also reminded that we are called to continue to do God’s work, to continue to fight battles, and to continue to follow God’s calling us in the time and place that He before ordained.

  18. 68
    Gail says:

    My trip to Israel had many moments. Just being in the areas where Jesus walked!! I will never forget it and hope to go back someday.

    Gail Jones
    Decatur, TX

  19. 69
    Living day by day for Jesus says:

    This blog is fabulous! I recently ventured out on a 40 day journey…A lot of what you said made sense and I definitely want to read that article soon! I had some FABULOUS time with God for sure, but it was during the weekend in Billings, MT when I went to a Living Proof Live conference, and then also during the week that I spent visiting old friends in Arizona.

    I think that we are most definitely meant to live in community and that is not to say that time alone isn’t important, it most definitely is but spending extended amounts of time with Him is really difficult in our current culture.

    I began my trip in Kentucky (where I am from) and traveled to Colorado where I camped, down to Arizona, back up to Billings, MT, back down to Arizona, West to the coast of California, up the pacific coast Highway and then on an 11 day cruise to Mexico.

    My favorite part of my trip, was on the way to Arizona from Billings. I drove through Yellowstone and it was the most fabulous thing with Jesus there, to turn around a corner, have something breathtaking in front of me and either crack up laughing at the pure joy or even cry my eyes out at the wonder and amazement of His creation! It was on this trip and during this time that i learned how to have Jesus as my “friend”.

  20. 70
    Anonymous says:

    I am still wiping tears from my face!

    Sincerity of your heart as you approach the Lord is the greatest step in a person’s spiritual pilgrimage. Not necessarily the location or the observations of granduer that one might be surrounded by.

    How easy it is for Satan to use pride to creep in of being somehow holier than others because of where you have traveled or what you have might have “felt” during a moment in life. Oh, that I not ever forget that it by recognizing only through grace alone and faith alone that I am given the privilege to approach Yaweh, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Almighty God which is the greatest pilgrimage I could ever imagine.

  21. 71
    Anonymous says:

    Oh, I admire all the travelers and am blessed by the missionaries.
    But, I am a homebody.
    I’m content to stay here, and serve God right in my community. I don’t like to travel far.
    As far as serving locally goes,
    sometimes the opportunity is staring us in the face and we dont even see it. Sometimes we do.
    Divine set-ups are not always overlooked but often encountered.
    And I do so hope and pray that local churches send us out the door to our own mission field.
    Which, if you think about it, is right outside the church door.

    I also have to concur with something someone else wrote.
    Sometimes, we need to make the pilgrimage alone. I need to lean on God, more than friends, more than small or large church groups. I need Him to be by my side, sustaining me with His Spirit and His Word.
    I’m working on it……

  22. 72
    saved by grace says:

    Melissa, I was so feeling your post. I took a trip for other reasons and had the most awesome experience with God ever.
    I went on a retreat for women who want to learn more about the outdoors, like learning to canoe, archery, fishing, etc. It took place in West Virginia mountains and we were all in cabins. The cabin sleeps 4 and I was to have 2 or 3 other cabin-mates that weekend. No one showed(I later found out that they had to cancel due to family emergencies) – so there I was in a cabin in the woods alone for three days and two nights. At first I was a little anxious, but then I began to pray, read scripture and sing. It was the most amazing weekend, God was so present to me that I can’t even explain how calm, relaxed and accompanied by him that I felt. I had such an awesome time be silent in his presence and listening to him that first night, that I could not wait to finish my classes and dinner and get to be alone again in my cabin, just me and God. It’s amazing how when we shut out the cares of the world, how he calms our fears, speaks clearly, and nourishes our soul. I wish there were words to explain how awesome it is, and I didn’t even have to travel far. I didn’t go for this purpose, but God changed that – He saw my need and met me at that point.

    Saved By Grace

  23. 73
    Corrie says:

    I really struggled during my high school years, I grew up in a small school, lots of partying, alcohol, sex and I just wasn’t into any of it at all and had very few friends, my mom recognized the rough time and sent me to spain my junior year as a foreign exchange student. I was blessed and lived with missionaries. God used the entire 6 months to strengthen me and to remind me of who exactly I was in him and how it didnt’ matter what happened in little ole Woodland Park. It was definitely a crucial lesson in my formative years:) It was a sweet sweet time of fellowship with him.

  24. 74
    bigdogmom says:

    I have not gone on any missions trips but I have had experiences through out my walk with the Lord where He let me know, no questions asked, that He was right there with me. I will share two of these experiences.
    The first was when my now 21 year old daughter was about 18 months old. She got really sick and was hospitalized. About the third night in the hospital, she was extremely restless and fussy. She was crying, constantly. The nurses were all really busy. It was up to me to find a way to calm her down. I was not doing a very good job of it, either, as my frustration was at an all time high. I had been dealing with her for about three hours. I finally cried out to the Lord, “Put this child to sleep or I think I am going to blow a gasket and start crying, too.” There in the midst of my temper tantrum, I heard a small still voice say, “Sing to her.” Well, I laid her down in the bed and began singing, “I Love You, Lord and I lift my voice.” I felt somewhat hypocritical because of my feelings just a second before. But, I sang. Within 5 minutes, she was out. THEN I felt the Lord right there in the room with me. I had a vision of an angelic host in that room with me. They were worshiping the Lord right along with me. It was a remarkable experience. For the first time since being in the hospital, my girl slept through the night and I got to rest as well.
    NOt to be out done by that one, there is another experience I want to share. Gosh there are so many, I really could write a book! Hmmmm…
    My mom had told me that a friend of hers was going in for sugery to remove cancer from his throat. She asked me to pray for him. Well, I did right then. I completely forgot all about it. Then, I got word that a local pastor had been admitted to the hospital. So my friend and I went to the hospital to go pray with him. His father was in ICU, as well. So we were standing talking to the family right outside the ICU when a man with a huge bandage around his throat was wheeled into ICU. I knew it was my mom’s friend. I began to pray for him, again. Then, I again heard the Lord speak to me. “Go find his wife.” Please take note, I did not know these people. They were friends with my mom. I told my friend that there was something I needed to do and I would be right back. I turned and walked back towards the lobby. Every step was an argument. “God, this is a really interesting thing you want me to do. I don’t even know her name. I only know his first name. How am I going to find someone that I don’t know? I have no idea what she looks like. YOu’re going to have to give me something to go on.” Well, I walked down the hall and a volunteer was standing by a waiting room. She stepped out to meet me. She asked if she could help me. I told her that I was looking for this man’s wife but I didn’t have a whole lot of information-just his first name and the type of surgery he was having. Well, she pointed to the room and said, “She’s in there.” It was the surgical waiting room.
    My internal argument was still going on cause now what was I going to say??? I walked into the waiting room and knew it was her cause she was the ONLY one in there. I sat down beside her and told her who I was. I asked her if I could pray with her. I remember praying for her to have her burden lifted from her and for her to have complete peace. I got up and went back to my friend.
    That night, I got a call from my very choked up mom. She said that it was really awesome to have her daughter looking out for her friends. Well, I did have to explain that the Lord was the one who was leading me. I did ask the Lord to forgive me for doubting him. Just talking about it gets me all teary eyed. I love my Lord! He has brought a ray of hope in my darkest hour. He is so good to me.

  25. 75
    Holly says:

    YES!!! The amazing part is I was just reliving it to the young woman i mentor just this past week… I too have done the passion conferences, but my 1st experience on a piligrimage was with ONEDAY ’00. I was 26 and had graduated, and was encourgaed by our small group leader to “volunteer” for OneDay. We had No idead the impact that weekend would have on our lives, even as a volunteer… I stood at the prayer line, praying for incoming cars and buses (with your mom) and then went to help with various activities. Being from a small town in WV, I wasn’t ready for the impact stepping on the field on saturday, and falling to our knees. I can vividly see those running to the cross, and weeping at the bottom. I too had served, yet in turn was so blessed and served myself. to look over a sea of 40,000 college students and KNOW we were not alone. I don’t want a “next thing” i just want MORE of Jesus. the verses i have run upon all weekend are Matt 7:7-8. “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. for everyone who asks recieves; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” He is waiting for us.
    Thanks for sharing your heart on such matters.
    Holly in SC

  26. 76
    Anonymous says:

    Just make sure my friends that when you go you go with the Great Commission before you. Mission trips can turn into vacations. It is great to encourage other believers in the world but the reason God left us here after He saved us was to use us to share the Gospel. I have been to a places where the church is persecuted. The most vibrant New Testament church I have ever witnessed was there. We can go and join our brothers and sisters in the world, bring our resources but mostly our love and passion for others on our journeys. It’s not about me. It’s about Jesus.

  27. 77
    Nicole says:

    Pope John Paul II came to Detroit when I was in HS (in the 80’s). My Catholic girls’ school took a bus down to the event with nuns from our school. The nuns ran in to the secure area with their tickets, leaving many a school-girl behind (with no ticket, I might add). We were resourceful though and found a place to watch from a distance. It was a profoundly moving experience for me…I do not have words to describe how close I felt to God; better described as a Godly presence. I have often wondered if it was the congregation of believers, the rarity of the event, or the presence of the Pope himself. In my heart, I feel it was the Pope. His presence was awesome and his message relevant and meaningful.

  28. 78
    Maria says:

    Oh Melissa, my heart right now…and yes I had an experience like you at a church, Willowcreek Evangelism Conference 1999. This is a little long, but I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

    I was brand new in my walk. I was 42 at the time, and I had bought my first bible at 40. Never owned one before than. I was like a sponge… on fire to know Jesus. We were moving fast together.

    I went to this conference with a group of people from my local church. I was excited to hear Lee Strobel, John Ortonberg, and other writers as well. I was so excited and I told the ladies that I was with, “Lets make sure we get there early so we can get up front.” So we did the first day and we were about the 5th row from the stage. I was happy. The second day they were straggling. So when we arrived there was about 100 people or more ahead of us. I was so disappointed because I HAD to be up front. As I was standing, there was a round table separating the crowd from one side to the other (close to the doors) and there were brochures on it. I walked up to the table to read what was on it, and the doors opened for the people to go into the church. So I walked right in, and got us seats close to the front.

    I see my friends and wave to them. I have 5 seats saved. I said “I got us these seats right here” My friend said “Yes, I know, you took cuts.” TOTALLY EMBARASSED!! So I sat down and I heard the Lord clearly say to me, “How can I use you when you behave in this manner?!!” Talk about holy conviction!!My heart felt like it weighed 100 pounds! God started to show me all the areas where I am selfish…right there…in the 5th row..in front of everyone..I put my face in my hands and start bawling. It was like a video in my mind from one snapshot to the next of my selfish and prideful heart.

    I had to say to the Lord..’please stop.. I get it” And as fast as I heard him discipline me, he also said this ..very clearly “The Lord loves whom he corrects”…and I felt his love right there. My friend came up to me and said “Are you alright??” “NNNNOOOOOO!!.. I’m such a loser!!! Besides taking cuts, do you know what else I have done?” I started to tell her what God said and the things I did…by the time I was done she was laughing histerically…the more I made a confession about the things I did, the more she laughed..I finally said..”just go away…” That was the very first time I heard Gods voice.

    But I didn’t catch the most important part of what he said until about a year later when I was thinking about that moment. He said, ” How can I USE YOU when you behave in this manner” Use me? How? Where? When?

    Travels? (I am crying right now..) I always wanted to be a teacher and it was taken from me. He gave it back to me and now I get to teach about Him. I was privileged to teach in South Africa, India, Mexico, West Applachia and my local church. I was blessed to tell that story too!

    I’m 51 now and Jesus and I are having a blast!! Were on another BIG travel to the BIG Apple! I am leaving my home to do his work there.

    I JUST LOVED THIS POST!! Thank you Papa Spirit for this ministry.

  29. 79
    barbara head says:

    Oh, yes, I have seen some beautiful churches and cathedrals in the world but the small village churches leave most impression. We went to the small church in Austria where “Silent Night” was penned and oh my you could hear the words as clear as day. Then we went to Oberammergau(Spelling?), Germany where they do the Passion Play every 10 years and the entire town participates. Oh wow, how humbling!! Many churches in Europe are strictly for tourists but I know the feeling you had in that little tiny church in Germany. I have also been to the Holy Land and I must say most of the places I found to be too “Shriney” but just to step on the ground where Jesus walked is mind-blowing.

  30. 80
    rooney says:

    I met Jesus on the road to a counseling appointment with my 2 sons, ages 14 and 16. God had rescued the 3 of us from my very abusive, very short 2nd marriage. During the counseling session, my older son said he was thankful for the horror of my marriage to Nick because it was then that he began to really know Jesus. And my younger son was just happy to be happy again! God taught me then and many times since that He is a redeemer of lives and situations. Praise Him!

  31. 81
    Anonymous says:

    We had big plans for this fall. HUGE plans. My husband was going to retire, we were selling the house and we were going to see the world. We even pulled the kids out of school last year to home school them to prepare for our trip around the world! We planned to start in Israel and go from there. We could settle anywhere in the world after our trip!
    But we can’t retire with most of our savings gone from the crash. We can’t sell the house for what we paid for it just a few years ago anymore either. I have had to return to work as a private duty nurse. I work nights and home school during the day, our five children…sigh.
    After being home for almost 14 years, princess was not happy about going to work in all kinds of messy weather, here in the North East this winter! I literally drove every storm down the mountains of NY.
    I would arrive to my tiny office and go to care for a patient who had been in bed almost as long as I had been home raising my babies.
    This has been my pilgrimage…
    Since the Fall of last year, I have traveled to every corner of the world with my children, through books. I’ve studied post- WWII England, India, The Arctic Circle…I have had a blast “seeing” each of these places!
    And traveling on those icy roads at night, I have traveled right into the heart of my God. I have met him on the by-roads, in ways I never could have with a pass port in hand.
    I have to pray more on this. But reading your post, opened my eyes to all the traveling I have done these past six months. How amazing He gave me this. I could just weep with joy.
    PS I may have to wait to see the New Jerusalem, but can you just imagine the thrill of being with The Tour Guide who created it all!

  32. 82
    Anonymous says:

    My parents completed the Camino walking pilgrimage in France and north Spain, which I would also love to do. It certainly changed them when they came back – something about walking all day, living out of a small pack, staying in the special hostels that house pilgrims, and travelign with others is transformative.

  33. 83
    Tami in LA says:

    I have met Jesus on the road, and it was life-changing. It’s been my experience that if I am open to whatever He wants to say, He will use whatever vessel is available to speak through.

    For me, it wasn’t on a tour of the Holy Land, or Europe. It was when I attended a LPL event. I was stepping way out of my comfort zone by traveling with a group of ladies I hardly knew to a conference I knew nothing about. But the message at the event could not have been more timely. I was in a hard place, for various reasons. But the Lord spoke through Beth so clearly to me, it was like He and I were conversing. By the end of the conference, I was able to let go of hurt and unforgiveness that had plagued me for over a decade.

    The wonderful thing is that it didn’t end there. I had no idea what He was going to do in my heart when I surrendered the hurt to Him at the conference. When I came home, He continued to work and set me free from other things that plaqued me, like being judgmental and critical of His people. I had a lot of repenting to do, but I got up from that place a free woman!

    Speaking of LPL events, will you be in NO this weekend? My 11 year old daugther and I will be there. We’d love to say HI!

  34. 84
    Anonymous says:

    For a recreation experience, in ORLANDO there is the Holy Land Experience. My kids remember it more so almost than Disney World.

  35. 85
    Anonymous says:

    My spiritual oasis is AUSTIN, TX. I was BLESSED to live in Houston for 10 years. Twice I went to stay in Austin and the Lord met me there. My husbands was in GALVESTON beach. On a jetty 1 night the Lord washed his feet in the tide. He was changed. I've also experienced HIM on Daytona beach and Gulfport Miss Beach after Katrina. Moutains & Beaches. I guess the common factor would be that you are looking "away" from the rest of the world while on a beach or mountainside. He is faithful wherever I am.

  36. 86
    Shellie Paparazzo says:

    I haven’t done a lot of traveling. I wish I could. The little bit of travelling I’ve done I loved. Unfortunately, most of it was before I was a Christian. After that I was in college and had no money and now am married with 3 kids and have no money for myself. I’m not even going to be able to make it to Houston in January. I did fall in love with going to conferences and retreats when I was in college and try to go on at least one a year and they’ve had an effect on me. All of them. I usually came back sad,though, mostly because God revealed areas of failure in my life.

  37. 87
    lori says:

    You my dear are so effective!! I love your post, I love that they are always “meat”

    Love ya

  38. 88
    Lee Ann says:

    For me, it is Glorieta, New Mexico. I spent several summers there as a child/teenager while my parents led conferences. As an adult, I have been three times. I hope to go again. It isn’t about the conferences or speakers. In fact, I don’t even remember any speaker or conference in particular. It is the presence of God I sense while spending time alone in the prayer gardens or on the side of the mountain. It is the one location I long to go back to over and over!

  39. 89
    Anonymous says:

    New Orleans. Yes, you read that right. In Sin City. On June 4,2004 I got to go with my husband for his convention to New Orleans. We were staying at the fanciest hotel in thecity. My skin crawled each time I walked to it and away from it–it was surrounded by the most disgusting and vile places–strip clubs, bars with the most horrendous and least clothed people, drunk out of thier minds. HOW I hated that city and its people. However, every morning after my husband left for his meetings–in my prayer time I would meet the Lord. Melissa, He just broke my heart and I got to see what He felt for that city–GOD LOVED NEW ORLEANS but hated what it did. In the natural I never felt a thing for that city and all I wanted to do was run back home to Canada and to my cozy life in a small small city. But He made me pray for NO and I wept for hours and hours as I prayed for that city. On that SUnday I went to church and I cried through the service as I again felt HIS heart for that city. A year later, New Orleans was seriously judged, I believe with Katrina. And then this dull dull girl understood what He showed me those 3 days in New Orleans. When I returned home folks asked me whether I had a blast in New Orleans. You bet, I told them. There is no high like meeting the MOST HIGH.

    I have no blog or anything. But my email address is [email protected]

  40. 90
    Sandy Smith says:

    Melissa, As I read your blog and came to the end, I thought “I love this young lady. Bless her, Lord, for her honesty.”
    My son (22yr.) wants to do something this summer, that I would call a pilgramage. I am praying he will be able to do it, financially. His reasons are, he thinks it will help him with his confidence…his self-esteem. I agree because I know he knows his confindence can only be found anchored in Jesus. Why dont’ you pray for him, and this “pilgrimage” he seeks from your youthful prospective.

  41. 91
    Sarah H. says:

    In college, at the end of every semester – the weekend before finals, the college pastor would lead a retreat to a convent/retreat center in Wisconsin – the Sinsinawa Mound Center. I remember thinking how ridiculous it sounded to leave campus the week before finals when you should be studying. Then I went. I never missed one after that. It involved a lot of time meditating and thinking both in groups and on our own. Plus they had the best zucchini bread ever! Some days I long for a quiet weekend like that again where I could set aside all of the stress for a while and just be quiet with God.

  42. 92
    Anonymous says:

    Melissa, appreciate this mind-stretching post … Lord knows I need it.

    You had this comment in the post:

    Graham Tomlin says: “Pilgrimages… if they lead to rediscovery of Jesus, the incarnate Word, they can lead to a renewed appreciation of the ordinary people and places that make up real live churches.

    This resonated with me because seven years ago I was teaching a Sunday School class of 6th grade girls. Almost all of them were refugees in this country and they touched my heart so with their hunger for the Word of God. They and their familes were living in poverty and God used these precious girls to grow me in His grace and knowledge.

    One of the girls that I had grown close to, and her family, announced they were moving to another part of the country to get employment. They had a “going-away” meal for family and friends and invited me. I had never had Ethiopian food, but they told me what it was and how to eat it. Before the meal, their Ethiopian pastor prayed. I did not understand the language, but my spirit was saying “yes, and Amen” to his words. All of the people gathered in that room were crying and calling out to the Lord in their language, and I was crying, too, because we were in His presence beseeching Him for His mercy, and giving Him thanks.
    This was such a humbling time for me and a pilgrimage moment because as Graham said, these were ordinary people, including me, that made up a real live church!

    You have a tender heart, Melissa, and you are precious to the body of Christ. We love you.

  43. 93
    Xena says:

    Long story short: Dealing with childhood sexual abuse 20 years into my Christian walk at the ripe ol’ age of 48! Husband going through 6 months of chemotherapy. Some friends sent me to the island of Kauai where at 6 a.m. one morning, I threw my wounded heart over the cliff of Waimea Canyou and the Spirit of God brough fresh healing of His heart in me! Pretty amazing moment! I cherish that special pilgrimage! Thanks for the entry, well-done!!!

  44. 94
    BK says:

    I started reading your blog and thought, “Where in the world are you going with this.” Thanks be to God I finished it. Isn’t it wonderful when God doesn’t allow us to stand in our pride and arrogance and places us on our face before Him.I have found being critical is the fastest way to hit bottom and experience God in His mercy. My greatest retreat is God’s glorious mountains and also in the sunset of West Texas.

  45. 95
    Dianne says:

    Dear Melissa,
    Such a wonderful post on many levels! I love what you had to say about it being great to attend conferences that stimulate fresh passion for Christ and then cause us to go back to our local communities and churches with renewed fervor, but not when they make us unhappy and dissatisfied with our local churches. You are wise beyond your years.

    On the pilgrimage topic, I have never traveled abroad and really haven’t seen alot of the USA, but feel that I have been on pilgrimages, many times unplanned ones. I want my life to be a pilgrimage of growing in relationship with Christ, but come up so short many times. But when I finally get it, what joy! Sometimes just the simplest things where you respond to God in a way that surprises you is an example of meeting Jesus on the road. Trips where God put me in certain situations that could only be God-appointed. A recent encounter with someone I actually feared and the words came so naturally about God’s love for him. A period of unemployment and financial setback that brought my husband and I closer to each other and to God. A recent sermon that so affected my life that I sobbed from the opening prayer until the benediction. These are just a few times that I experienced God’s presence in a unique way.

    Maybe I’m on the wrong track here, but those are such sweet times of pilgrimage in my Christian life.

    As far as traveling abroad if I could, the 2 places that I feel have great spiritual significance that I would like to visit are The Holy Land and Africa. The Holy Land because it is where Jesus lived and walked, and Africa because my brother and his family are missionaries there.

    Thanks for allowing us this opportunity to share. I have so enjoyed your original post and all the comments.


  46. 96
    Yolanda says:

    In 2005, my father passed away after suffering a stroke.
    It was totally unexpected and our family was overcome with grief. During this time I felt the Lord’s presence in my life that he literally carried me through that time in my life.
    My father and mother had planned a trip to Greece for my oldest son’s high school graduation that May. My younger brother was going to go as well.
    My mother didn’t want to cancel the trip. She knew my father would want her to go on that trip, take my son and my brother. My siblings all agreed that I should go on the trip with my mom.
    I felt so “out of place” on that trip, because my father should have been there.
    The most amazing part of that trip was going to the island of Patmos. There in that tiny chapel,where John the disciple was, is where Jesus spoke to me in such a tender way, I felt so loved by the LORD. He wanted me to be there and to know how much he loves me. Thank you for this awesome memory of my walk. Praise God!

  47. 97
    Anonymous says:

    Eight years ago I was at a cabin in northern Wisconsin with my family. There was supposed to be a meteor shower during the night, and I just love things like that — things that show off God’s glory in a way that nothing else can. I slept alone in an empty bedroom that night so that the alarm clock I set for the wee hours of the morning to catch the shower wouldn’t wake my family. As I fell asleep, I kept praying, “Please show me your glory, Lord. Please show me your glory.” I was so hungry for deep glimpse, tangible glimpse of God. I fell asleep, the alarm went off, and when I went outside to look at the sky my heart sank. Cloud cover. There was a meteor shower going on that I couldn’t see. I was so disheartened that I started crying; so craving God. So instead of joining my family, I went back into the empty bedroom to cry and be with God, even without the stars. Minutes later, my husband opened the door and stood in the doorway holding our three-month-old son. I could see their silhouettes in the darkness. Little Mathieu was ready to nurse. When my husband handed him to me, I sensed God saying, “THIS is my glory.” — The miracle of His creation. A brand new soul, fearfully and wonderfully made, that would live on eternally — a little person we were just getting to know, that God knew before the foundation of the world. Glory.

  48. 98
    Anonymous says:

    Melissa- I’ve just gotten to your blog, I wanted time to actually read and take it in.
    You have a deep thang going on girl….what eles ya got for us? I enjoy your thoughts. I have to admit, the huge glamorus churchs vs the little churches Is something I struggle with at times. I’ve been to both, but I have to remind myself often that big is not always better.
    In your travels and growth in Christ and actual years you have learned that. I’ve learnd through moving around to different states and churches. big and fancey dosen’t always mean spitural or godly.
    One day I would like to go to the Holy lands, but I would like to go with a group of fun Christians, and seeveral big strong men who could keep me safe if needed….fear and money stop me. Maybe I should learn ty-kwon-do like my sons and learn how to prtoect myself. That would be one out of 2 problems down.
    Becky /Brentwood

  49. 99
    Moss Family says:

    When I was a child I would attend a little church camp in Lone Star, Texas. Every year while we were at camp we would experience the trip to “Prayer Mountain”. It was a short hike up a small hill but God truly painted a canvas of His beauty for us to see.

    One of the rules of the walk up was no talking! (Did I mention I was a teenager and there was no talking?)

    It was at the top of that hill that I knew God had called me for something more. I was already a Christian but it was there that I realized God wanted my journey to be something a lot more than ordinary.

    God taught me then that when I look back at things, those things I once thought were mountains are actually just small hills that I found Him on top of already 🙂

    You can view photos of the camp (and prayer mountain) at:


  50. 100
    Kristib says:

    It is amazing how, when, and where we will meet Jesus. Thank you for this post, it brought back sweet memories from my one and only trip overseas.

    The summer of 2006 I traveled to Africa. We spent most of our time in the city of Niarobi. I remember being in a small impoverished home (by our standards) of a pastor. We all crowded into the one room living area and the family shared their meager meal with us. We sang familiar praise songs and listened to the pastor share about the Lord. We were one big family united by His grace.

    We also did some door to door evangelism where we met a young woman who was a Christian. We prayed and fellowhshipped with her for quite a long while. It was such a sweet time. Two cultures meeting as one bound by our Lord!

    As we left her home we came across some children that did not speak English. They were fascinated by us. They touched our faces and our hair. They probably had never seen people like us. We ministered through smiles and laughter and as they touched our outward bodies they made a major impression on our hearts!

    So many amazing moments that I could share from this trip!

    But I don’t want to forget the incredible moments I have had right here at home. Kneeling before the Lord, crying out to Him, and having your mother lay hands on me is an experience I hope to long remember.

    Praise You Lord for the things You have done!

    Much love!

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