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. 101
    Anonymous says:

    I always feel I need to talk to you in an anonymous voice. I think it’s b/c you always go after the harder things of the faith and the harder things are simply harder to talk about. I think you are diving head first into authenticity and that can be painful. It is never fun being stripped of all fleshly confidence. It is humbling. It is even humiliating. But it is a great work that produces a SINCERE spirit filled life – which is freedom. The process opens our eyes so we can truly see. It is a work that takes those who view themselves as truly humble people and humbles them even more, not for the purpose of torure or righteousness by works but so that the righteousness that is solely the result of faith can be realized. In this Christ is always seen as who He truly is – the ONLY place to stand and the ONLY one to put confidence in. It is a work that begins, yet again, the very moment one thinks the process has been completed. It is then in half terror and amazing joy we hear the Son beckon us further. There is a place further still and only He knows the way.

  2. 102
    Anonymous says:

    Melissa, We were missionaries with the IMB for about a year in Nice France and the two churches we worked in LOVED Shine Jesus Shine and begged my husband ( the worship guy ) to play it every week. We closed each service with that song in fact. Now, 10 years later, I still say, “Shine Jesus Shine” as he walks out the door for work. Sometimes we laugh about it, cause it sounds silly, but I mean it with my whole heart! Thanks for sharing your heart Melissa–


  3. 103
    Barbra Keeler says:

    God is driving something home to me… my husband was just reading that CT article at the camp where I worked this weekend and it caught our eyes because our small group and our pastor have been studying Luke 24 (the road to Emmaus)for a couple months now! Thanks for your summary. I can’t wait for the Lord to reveal more to me about the journey we’re on together!

    As for travel.. I’ve been blessed with some amazing trips – Reformation tour through Europe, archaeology tour through Israel and numerous mission/service projects. But, I think the most precious pilgrimages in recent times have been the once a year times when I go to the ocean. God has met me there in such intimate ways… it’s like our own secret hideaway!

    Thanks for sharing, Melissa. You feel like a true siesta, a kindred spirit.

  4. 104
    Anonymous says:

    I was really touched by your transparency with your feelings. I didn’t learn history the first time through, but am learning it now that my child is learning it. Her whole fifth grade year was on the Old World and started with Mesopotania and went outward. It was a Christian school, so the history was taught from that perspective. I kept/used her history book a lot more than she did! You should have seen me when I learned about an actual aquaduct! I finally understood so much! Yes, I make coffee nervous too, just like your mom! I loved hearing about your travels, and thrilled you learned from your “ignorance”-not ‘getting it’. Seventeen years ago, I was pregnant with my first child. As I sat in my school’s lunchroom with my class, I looked at a group of mentally challenged teenagers cleaning the lunchroom. One girl looked like she was pregnant and I remember thinking all kinds of things about her and the others. My daughter is profoundly mentally retarded and now stands swayback just like the young lady and looks pregnant. Of course, I have a new heart for all God’s people, especially those put on earth to bring glory totally to Him. What a blessing I would have missed hadn’t I not have had my special child. My other child has special needs also. Little things, mean every thing!
    Celeste Wells
    Tuscaloosa, Al

  5. 105
    Rebecca says:

    In a small rock chapel, the mountains of NC, I sat in the pews by candle light on the first night of my Emmaus Walk. From the back of the chapel someone began reading a story that I had heard many times before, I began to realize that I was that Prodigal daughter, I began to run to a Father who had been looking for me to come down that road and had been running long before I even knew it. I began to weep like I had never wept before, faced with the fact that He loved me, was proud of me, fond of me and would tell anyone how much He loved me. What a journey that weekend began. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for sharing that article, one that I will need to read again and again.
    Redeemed and Renewed, Rebecca

  6. 106
    Marla Taviano says:

    Melissa, if you haven’t already, you’ve GOT to read Christian George’s book, Sacred Travels. It is so, so, so good!! One of my all-time faves!

  7. 107
    Anonymous says:

    Such a great post Melissa. Thank you. I read it the other day and was convicted again this morning in church when our pastor gave a talk on much the same thing. I have been annoyed by some things in my church lately…silly things that really don’t mean anything in light of what God is doing in that place. I was reminded again that it’s really not all about me!

  8. 108
    lilscrapper says:

    It wasn’t a place I traveled far to, but the college I attended had a small chapel and there were a few evenings where I and a few others gathered and worshipped with nothing more than a guitar and our voices. Those times were precious!!
    The few missions trips I have been on are all special to me, mainly because they all left me with a sense that I was so blessed…and materialistic! Everyone we encountered blessed us beyond belief and were so happy with what little they had. It made me realize how I needed to focus more on the important things in life!
    I think it’s time for another trip….

  9. 109
    Anonymous says:

    Melissa, you are a blessing!

  10. 110
    Anonymous says:

    Alaska. The Lord is glorified by the beauty of His creation. I was taken to tears by the sheer beauty that surrounded me. He is an awesome God!

  11. 111
    Sarah says:

    Thanks for sharing Melissa!
    I spent over 6 months in rural Africa as a missionary nurse. The church I went to had dirt floors, you had to bring your own chair or sit on the ground, there were no decorations, no sound system, it was hot, people were packed close together, it was in a different language, babies were constantly breast feeding, it was hard to hear at times, the weekly offering was usually the equivalent of 7 U.S. dollars, the pastor had to carve wood to feed his family since he didn’t get paid, it lasted three hours and was so refreshing. I would love to go back someday-I miss it so much. It is hard to explain and I don’t want this to be that long, but I would become overwhelmed with God’s presence in that church- I can still hear the bongos with hundreds of voices singing their heart out to God and see the people dancing . I met Jesus in that church through people with dirty feet, runny noses, and the best singing voices you will ever hear.

  12. 112
    Shannon says:

    South Africa is a place of pilgrimage for me–I am drawn to places where God moves through people standing up against injustice.

    The people of God stood up against the apartheid regime in SA, at great risk to their own lives, and said no. They called it a heresy, because it was buttressed by the theological justification of the Dutch Reformed Church. They believed the Kingdom was present if they lived like it was, and that there were things worth standing up for, and laying down in front of tanks for.

    After having been arrested for speaking against apartheid, Desmond Tutu spoke at a service at St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town. Marchers had been met with police brutality, and as he began to speak police in riot gear filled the sanctuary and began recording his comments. He turned to them and said, “You are powerful, very powerful, but you are not God! And I serve a God who will not be mocked!” And then he grinned at them and said, “So we invite you to come over to the winning side.”

    I love standing in that space, which now has another of his quotes etched on the wall: “Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Light is stronger than darkness. Life is stronger than death. Victory is ours through Him who loves us.”

    The American civil rights movement inspires me the same way so I’m just as awed in Birmingham or Atlanta.

    And by the way, Desmond Tutu is ADORABLE when you meet him. No bitterness or anger at all. Plus I think “Come over to the winning side” is basically the gospel in a nutshell.

  13. 113
    jennyhope says:

    GIRLFRIEND!!! Oh how I share your heart here. I was raised steeped in tradition and went to church every Sunday (EVERY SUNDAY) and had no idea Jesus died for me. Knew nothing of the bible. I had no idea about grace. ANYWAY, don’t get me started. I have such a distaste in my heart for the legalism that I endured in the name of religion.
    Well, I have not done a lot of traveling…but when your mom came to Birmingham, God met me in such a special way. I had really been struggling with the call on my life and whether or not (even though I had countless confirmations) I was called to a vocational/teaching ministry. Your mom told us to go home and do some homework and I did. Saturday morning I woke up (it was pouring down raining) and I could not find my ticket. Well, frantically I found it and made it in time. I asked God to put something on my heart to pray regarding making an impact on our generation. I said Lord, if Beth calls me out of those 18,000 people then I will know that you are calling me to teach and etc. Well, your mom stops in the middle of teaching on Ephesians and talking about how God sees us and we think He doesn’t recognize us or care but he does. Then, with the Spirits leading your mom saw me and called me out of that crowd (I even managed to wear something cute and believe God that He was going to answer my prayer…lol). I told everyone what I had prayed because of how your mom was teaching on how personal He is and then He would call little me out of a crowd of 18,000 not by chance…but because He is God. Well, a few years have gone bye and the honeymoon of that is over and I have been extremely humbled and broken. I am waiting on the Lord because other than facilitating bible studies I left the class that I taught for 7 years and I have not had much opportunity AT ALL since then.
    I am to the point where I just want to bring Glory to Him and I don’t care even if it means teaching preschool (I taught 20 of them today…).
    Every time I doubt and start to think maybe all that was made up I can go back to the cd where that happened and remember how specific God was. He met with me.

    And you need to keep writing!!! I love it!!!

  14. 114
    Anonymous says:

    I had been taught from the pulpit that all the carvings and statutes in a Catholic cathedral were idols and therefore, sinful. It was not until I walked into the beautiful cathedrals and village churches in France and Germany that I realized that these were the Bible stories that were carved into the walls, or placed inside stained glass windows, for those who did not yet have access to the written WORD of God, because the printing press had not been invented or they could not read, etc, so they could see the stories, repeat them to their children, place them deep in their hearts!! Talk about a revelation.
    Thanks for the reminder

  15. 115
    Anonymous says:


    I have never been on a trip like that. We (me and my husband), always talk about going to Israel. Maybe if we aren’t moving one summer (joking). Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

    I would have to say that my most moving encounters with God are in probably the most unexpected times and places. It seems that when I am not trying, or least expecting it, my heart is filled with gratitude and love for Him. I can really sense His love and the Holy Spirit. There are so many times that I know that Jesus is right there with me.

    I was delivered from a stronghold from hell and the fact that I am alive is a pure miracle. The fact that I have a family, a Christian family, intact, is even more of a miracle. Every time I think about how I am never alone, NEVER WILL BE, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and peace.

    My heart is definitely into experiencing Christians in different places. I’m not sure that if I had become a Christian before I met my husband, I would not be out in the jungle somewhere. If I did not have a family, I would most likely be a missionary. Of course, if I did not have a family, I would have never gone to treatment, where I came to know Christ. As God would have it, I would not trade them in for anything in this world. I love ministering to my children, there is nothing like it.

    I went to my uncle’s church one time when I was in my little hometown visiting. I will say that I cried there when a family got up to give their testimony (I always cry at testimonies, they are my favorite). This family was from Russia and used to be communists. They actually stood in front of churches, guarding with guns to keep children out. Long story short, they are now in the States, the daughter is here on a music scholarship at a Christian University (miracle). To top it off, she sang the popular “Untitled Hymn” (I believe that’s the name-you know “come to Jesus, fly to Jesus”). You know, that beautiful song. I have it on a CD, but I can’t tell you who sings it. My sweet grandma had recently gone home from breast cancer and it was one of the songs lightly playing at her wake. So, with that memory, the beauty and truth of that song and these witnesses of God combined, yeah, I was bawling too. I am not a bawling in public person, so that was a big deal.

    Getting baptized to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” makes me tear up when I hear that song now. “It is Well With My Soul” gave me the most comfort after I became a Christian. I could go on and on. This was during a time when my family was literally falling apart. It was a heartbreaking nightmare. I had peace after Jesus entered the picture. It was a terrible time, but He was with me. I would never wish for those days again, but I was at my lowest. Many times when I am taking things for granted (like my family), I think it would be good for me to be that low again. In my weakness, I let Him be the strongest.

    I’ll admit, I’ve not even looked at the last three “Christianity Today” magazines laying on my floor, along with a gazillion other books. Many I have to read and dread it. I will definitely pick that one up off my floor and read it. I got those because a little boy I know sent me a school thing asking me to buy magazines, so I got that one. I’ll also admit that I looked at the title you mentioned and thought “I am not interested in reading about places of travel, I’ve read that stuff before-boring.” I have not opened it, went straight on the floor. So, thank you so much. I think I can finally go to sleep tonight, so I’ll read it first thing tomorrow. I look forward to it.

    As you can see, I’m posting this late. I’ve gone through a few painful, but peaceful weeks of chastising from God myself. He is long-suffering because I should have had all this reaped on me a loooong time ago. I’m so grateful, it’s like when you are in a stronghold and you get releived when you get caught, although you can’t stop on your own…I’ve been reminded of a very dark time, different situation, same darkness and I’ve been up late every night…crying, praying and thanking God that He loves me enough not to give up on me.

    Sometimes I wonder when I am going to get struck by lightening or something b/c I deserve it. I’ve been in pain, but it is the good kind, it is the kind where you know your Daddy loves you so He is going to bring you back to Him. Put you in a place where you have to choose that blessing or curse (again). Those of us who have been so far down before Him do not want to go back there. Anything but there. Okay, you have my attention now kind of thing. Thank you Jesus.

    Man, I keep promising myself that I will quit writing long posts, I am so pathetic, yet, here I am, it’s not too late, going to hit “post” anyway. Well, you never know. I might not be able to type some day for some reason so there’s my excuse for being rude. Life is short, right? Thank you for telling us about the article. Most importantly, thank you for being so transperent in your experiences, what had happened and your decisions, changes of heart. You have really blessed me Melissa. God’s been doing a lot of that lately. HE TRULY NEVER LETS GO (there, another moment).

    Much Love,

    Barbara S.

  16. 116
    Anonymous says:

    Oh Melissa,

    I just read your comment tonight b/c I knew I would have to be in my right mind. You are a intellectual, a sweet, transperent, Jesus woman! I knew this absent mind would have to concentrate (smile).

    I am seriously traveling to San Antonio by the weekend. Just got word that I’m getting this puppy I’ve been wanting. In my months of telling my hubby all the reasons we need a dog, I told him tonight “This dog is going to change our lives.” I can’t wait. Also, I’ve never been to Texas until I came looking for a house last Spring and I’ve never been to the Hill Country. I’ve heard about it alright and seen pictures. I’ve always wanted to see real bluebonnets too and now they are all over the place. Just thought I would share that little tidbit about traveling with you…from a True Blue Mountaineer to a True Blue Texas Girl! Barbara

  17. 117
    Georgia's blog says:

    I met Jesus on the road standing all alone on a beach in Hawaii. Sounds rough huh? I was away from my family, it was Christmas eve, I was having a pity party, yes in Hawaii. I was there working, away from my husband and children at Christmas time. I had been walking in search of a candle so I could have my own Christmas eve service. Walking along the beach I kept hearing the bagpipes… I followed the sound and about the time I heard them, the music stopped. Poor pitiful me… Anyway, I sat down in the sand, lit my candle, opened my Bible and began to read the story of Jesus’ birth and then I heard the music… Amazing Grace being played on the bagpipes. I wept and wept and wept, feeling like God played that song just for me! At that moment I knew it was the most AWESOME Christmas eve service I had ever attended with my Lord and Savior. It was truly amazing and an experience I will never forget.

    Almost 11 months ago, my feet were placed on a journey I never dreamed I would experience. it was a journey of grief. Our 15 year old daughter chose to go home with Jesus… The pilgrimage has been hard but oh so sweet. Do I miss her, terribly. My arms ache to hold her, my ears long to hear her precious voice, I long to see her sweet smile. Do I want her back, I mean really? No. Wow that is really hard to say. Does that lessen how much I love her, no. It has only deepened my love for Him. I will see Him again someday and when that happens I will see her too! If I had her back then I would have missed this pilgrimage with HIM and it has been AWESOME.

    I have walked silently on this journey through this valley of uncertainty. I haven’t always understood, but the longer He has walked and talked with me the clearer things have become. He has reminded me that this “shattered dream” is for my benefit. His presence has become more real than ever; it is only when my dreams are completely “shattered” that I am able to see more clearly, the only ONE who really matters ~ Jesus.

    I know Him, love Him, and appreciate Him like never before. And as hard as this journey is I am thankful for it…

    Thank you Melissa for your transparency! Love ya Siesta!


  18. 118
    Anonymous says:

    I camp in the mountains by a stream. I return to the same camp site each summer. It’s my pilgramage. My sabbath.

  19. 119
    Anonymous says:

    My trip was yesterday- we minister in a “spiritually dark” part of our country- attendance was down, the worhip service didn’t go as planned- but one of the songs that is an “anthem” song for our church is “Shine, Jesus, Shine”. We sing it out loud, strong and with a pleading in our voices. I can so relate to that little church in Germany. Melissa, thank you for your post because sometimes I wonder if our small church can have any kind of impact (especially knowing the size of some churches in the bible belt)- and your post gave me a boost- a renewed sense that yes,we can still have an impact, even if it’s just on a few. I needed that- He knew it and I thank you.

  20. 120
    Michele says:

    Thanks so much for your post. Thanks for sharing and being open. As I read, I realized I’ve been on a regular pilgrimage lately.
    Exactly a year ago, a sudden compulsion to learn Greek ended up with me starting in Northeastern Seminary’s MA program just a few days later. Since NES is on the west side of Rochester, NY, and I live near Syracuse, I have a 1 1/2 hour drive each way every Tuesday for class.
    I could write a book about all the ways God has been teaching and growing me in the last year through school and the trip. Speaking of reformers, we are studying the reformation this semester.
    On the drive, I usually listen to podcasts – most often the wonderful BethMoore or Charles Stanley.
    Anyhow, I’ll just give you one recent example of God’s work. At school, every other week we have a faith sharing small group. I used to look at this time as “fluff”, because I’m one of those intellectuals more concerned with learning facts than relational stuff. God and NES both think spiritual growth is important, and now I agree.
    Two weeks ago at faith sharing group, I shared about an incident the week before where I had unintentionally hurt my elderly dog, and couldn’t get past the guilt. Through the rest of the time, God spoke to me as clearly as I have ever heard him. I couldn’t write things down fast enough. He reminded me that I didn’t mean to hurt my dog. God and my dog have forgiven me. Suddenly, I felt the burden of guilt lift.
    Then was the kicker. I have carried shame and guilt all my life from my childhood victimization. God told me to write that if I can be forgiven for the most grievious sin (in my eyes – letting my dog get hurt), then I can… before I could write the word “can”, God said no, write “I am”. So I continued – I AM forgiven for all my sins, even the ones that were not my fault (from the past).
    I could not stop crying through the rest of group and most of the drive home. The revelation of forgiveness was powerful and took a huge load off of me.
    Praise God!

  21. 121
    wannagrowwannago says:

    you made the comment that Jesus travels and I am sure glad tht he does, some of themost meaningful times of meeting with with God have been when He has met with me here, sometimes right on my bathroom floor. Literally. I have not had the opportunity to travel extensively, although we did take our youth to Ecuador and that was amazing, but then last summer we took them to Columbus Ohio to do street ministry and I would be hard put to decide which made more impact!!
    As far as the simplicity of the words to the song Shine Jesus Shine, it has always been one that I love. I think about this: my dad never had the opportunity to finish 9th grade, it wasn’t his Biblical intellect that made an impression on me, it was his love and simple but firm faith in Jesus. One of his favorite songs was Jesus Loves Me This I Know. Remember the quote: God said it. I believe it. That settles it. Well that was my dad. He knew Jesus loved him not because his life was grand and without problems, to the contrary, he knew it because God’s Word said it. And he lived like he believed it. Listen to the words again, such a simple song, but the message is truelly more than we can comprehend.
    I am so happy for you that God spoke to your heart and gave you a glimpse of His!!

  22. 122
    Anonymous says:

    I think everyone should go on a missions trip/pilgrimage whether it is to a destination in their own country or abroad. I had a chance to go with my church about 20 years ago to help some missionaries we suppored in Grenada. It was life changing. I don’t think it matters where you go, just listen to God and go!

    On another note, I understand what you meant about conferences/pilgrimages being good only if they didn’t make you discontent with your local church, but I think sometimes it might be good to have your eyes opened to the church you are attending if it is not feeding you the truth of God’s word. Twice in my life God has used not a conference, but another church’s services to show me what I was missing – my soul was not getting fed. That dried-up, empty feeling was nourished in hearing God’s truth. When you are entrenched in something, even in service in the church, sometimes you don’t know you are lacking until God shows you through another service, conference, message on the radio, or even a song.

    I do so enjoy your blogs. Please keep them coming!

  23. 123
    su says:

    Last fall my husband and I went to Tanzania. He was going hunting and I had my books. On the second or third morning out in the middle of nowhere (known as the bush) a shadow of darkness came over me. Like nothing I had ever felt. I was alone for hours on end on this trip. I started thinking – sure, it’s easy to believe in God when you go to church every Tues for Bible study, Wed nite service and Sunday service. But here you are alone. Maybe there really isn’t a God. Melissa, I had never had those thoughts before!! I felt so alone, so vulnerable, so oppressed. I grabbed my Bible and read and read. I prayed. But the darkness persisted. Then I took my iPod up into a lookout, gazed over God’s incredible creation and starting singing. Praise God for modern technology. It took a good 10-15 songs to pull me out.

    We were there for a week and a half – most of that time I was alone. It turned into such a sweet time of fellowship with God. His word was so alive, His presence so tangible. The darkness never came back. But I did start praying for missionaries. I thought – is that what they experience? It was terrible. So I have a new appreciation for what they endure.

  24. 124
    mamank says:

    A couple of things come to mind. In honor of your long post, this will be a long comment!

    One happened only yesterday, but I will never forget it. Yesterday, before we went to church, my husband and I went looking for the home of a family that had requested help after last week’s tornado. On the way, we passed Corinth Baptist Church, which was destroyed by the tornado. As we passed, the congregation was gathering for the morning service outside and directly facing the rubble that was their church building only a few days ago. A cross had been set up on what was left of the steps. As the members greeted one another with hugs and tears and smiles, I just started crying and thanking God that his church is his people, not buildings made of bricks.

    Oddly enough, a pilgrimage to a place of worship led me to my knees in recognition of how great our God is was not to a place that worships Him but to temples in a city in which I once lived. As I watched temple devotees clean up the sacrifices offered to idols, I was struck as I had never been by that fact that my God makes me clean. As we learned about some of the practices that are part of rituals to some gods, I was overwhelmed by the love of a God who desires purity and light in my life…so much so he alone makes it possible!

    As for where I want to pilgrimage…always Egypt and back to Africa.

  25. 125
    Rachel in Louisiana says:

    I have to confess I only read the last half, but you brought me to tears with your story about the little church in Berlin. Some of my most profound moments with God were when he humbled me like he did you.

    My big teaching moment happened when an African children’s choir was at our church. Sitting there watching them dance, sing and almost burst out in laughter from their joy, God showed me what geniune, unconditional love for him looks like. We serve the same God, but He was so much more to them than He was to me….because I limited Him. I wanted that joy and that kind of God.

  26. 126
    sylvia says:

    Years ago on a summer vacation with family we stopped at Queen Wilhemina Lodge in the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas. I took a hike alone and at the end of the trail was a wide vista of the valley below. It was breath taking. The next morning my son and I got up to follow the trail for our morning devotional. However, we were enveloped in fog and could not see anything. I described to him the view he was missing, but we both felt the view below was insignificant in light of the quiet presence of God. The quiet, peace and privilege of sharing that moment with my son as we worshiped God has stayed with me for 20 years.

  27. 127
    Brenda says:

    In the summer of 2002, I traveled with a group of teens to Kiev Ukraine as the trip mom. The first Sunday there, we attended a large church service downtown of the Pentecostal Church there. I was overwhelmed as we all joined together in praise and worship to the same Lord, Jesus Christ. The worship was rich and opened my eyes to the greatness of the family of faith. There we all were with hands raise singing praise to our God and King in different languages, the Unity of the Spirit in worship was amazing.
    Broken Arrow

  28. 128
    Sun says:

    I have never traveled out of the States – but would LOVE to go to Jerusalem (my great grandmother was a Messianic Jew). Melissa – I absolutely love how you share your heart. Thank you for blessing and challenging my walk each and every time you post. Sunshine

  29. 129
    Sherri M - NH says:

    Melissa that was an amazing blog you wrote. First off I was thinking it was your mom writing to us until you got to the Moody Bible school part, then I knew it was one of her girls.
    Thank you for being so transparent and challenging us…I’m on a pilgrimage right now but it’s not to the “Holy Land” it’s to my past. I have to go back to the place that I grew up and re-visit some ugly stuff but God has shown me that he was with me all along. I have never been so humbled and I love the thought that where ever we are IT IS Holy Land.
    Blessings to you Melissa. May God shine his face apon you, ALWAYS.pem1102

  30. 130
    Wanda says:

    Precious Melissa! Really!
    I love how the Holy Spirit has a way of bringing us back in. I have had my own prideful haughty moments. Thank you God for correction!
    Bless you sweet lady!

  31. 131
    Kay says:

    When my husband and I stood at the top of Haleakala volcano in Maui, and watched the sun rise over it’s edge, I felt God showing me what it might be like on the day He comes for me!

  32. 132
    Anonymous says:

    What truth in what was said. I have traveled to Latin America and in Canada, but to tell you the truth, NOTHING speaks to me of the presence of God then my family in my own home. Watching my mother support my Dad, or spend countless hours on the phone counseling a friend. Watching my sister rise early in the morning to study God’s word fervently. Finding my Dad wiping down my car windows before I leave for work. Watching my brother turn right around and take the next ferry right back to work when he gets a call from a tennant. Watching the family God has given me, fulfilling their roles in the world and in the family is more a picture of the family of Christ and the work of God then anything else. The one place that stands out in my mind that DID awe me with his presence was the Grand Teton Mountains when I got off the plane in Wyoming. It takes ALOT of faith to tell THAT mountain to go into the sea. WOW!! Thats also where I met Beth 🙂

  33. 133
    Connie says:

    Yes! Jesus met with me on an airplane as I was returning from a trip to England. I had been there for two weeks and I was going back home to a very difficult situation. My son, who is disabled, had just developed a medical condition that requires me to be his full time caregiver.
    I had been given a break to go away to visit my daughter in London…she was there with a mission organization.

    So…on the plane I reached a point that I was so upset about going back home that I couldn’t control my crying…I had to leave my seat and was sobbing in the bathroom…then, back at my seat I hid under my jacket and cried even more into my pillow.

    I just want you to know that I didn’t hear Jesus ‘say’ anything…I just know that He was there, holding onto me and letting me cry out my fears and concerns to Him. That was such a powerful experience…one I will always value and treasure about my relationship with Him.

  34. 134
    JoAnne says:

    I admire your posts, Melissa. They stretch and challenge us in the various arenas of sound doctrine. And that in turn spiritually sharpens us to more effectively live in a not so sound world.

    Keep them coming, girlfriend.

    Because of Him,

  35. 135
    Kimberly says:

    On a drive in South Africa towards the Kruger National Park…. I had to just stop and simply observe….. His magnificance just seemed to radiate through the details of the scenery.

  36. 136
    Linda says:

    “… 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…" How true this quote…I am a minister's wife. My husband and I both work full time in addition to our ministry, I have never travelled out of the country. I recently attended a "Missions" training event organized by our church's central organization and I was appalled at the smugness of some of our sister churches when the question was asked, "Have you travelled out of the country?" The overall attitude seemed to be that they were somehow better for their travels, and that you weren't really a missionary if you hadn't been outside your state or country to do missions work. Christians have to be careful to not be prideful…And in your thoughts about the little church in Germany, as I was reading, I thought, did not God say, the first shall be last, and the last…first? That little church in Germany is God's favored one. And I have always LOVED that song :)When I was a teenager, I would sing it at the top of my lungs & we would beg our music director to let us sing it….every. single. week. Sorry for the long comment. Long post, long comment.

  37. 137
    Brittany says:

    My older sister and I went on a mission trip to Haiti. I had just finished my freshman year of high school, and my sister was college-bound. My sister has epilepsy, and while we were in Haiti, she had 2 grand-mal seizures. We were in the mountains of Haiti and were unable to reach our parents by phone. We decided it was best for us to spend the rest of our time resting at the missionaries’ home. The night before we left the mountains to stay at their home, I lay awake in bed paralyzed by fear. I cried out to the Lord for peace and He reminded me of Philippians 4:6-7 that tells us to present our requests to God, with thanksgiving, resulting in His peace guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. I remember laying there and feeling God’s peace extend from my head to my toes. His presence was made so evident and real to me in that moment and is a time with Him I will always remember!

  38. 138
    Bo says:

    I ran right into Jesus at a ladies bible study in the Nairobi slum of Haruma. The hostess – who shared the 10×10 apartment with her husband and four children – was lovely and warm and welcoming in every way. Many of the ladies walked more than 2 hours to attend. I was thinking how different my life in America is…until they started worshiping and I realized, “He truly is the God of the WHOLE earth.” They probably remember me as the crazy American who wept through their whole study instead of teaching it. But I remember them as the women who taught me more about true worship than all my years in Bible college.

  39. 139
    Anonymous says:

    Israel….it’s been about 30 years since I was there, and it still brings me to tears when I remember. I went with a friend to visit her Jewish friend who lived on a kibbutz with her husband and 3year old son. The husband and son spoke only Hebrew, so every time the little fellow went running to leap into his father’s arms he shouted “ABBA”.
    I love to run to my Heavenly Father’s arms.

  40. 140
    David says:

    I have gone many places, but the one place I love the most right now is actually where I live. I live in the desert. Ridgecrest, CA and the sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking. The sky at night is still like black velvet full of diamonds and it makes me think that it must be very similar to where Jesus lived. If I was to go anywhere it would have to be those mountains that your mother paints such a picture of. She has left me longing for them more than once!

    I love what you said about the song. I work in programming at my church and there are more than a few people who are a little picky when it comes to music… I understand we all have our preferences, but God loves the songs His people have written for Him! They all have power!

    And I love you too. You have a very sweet spirit, very honest.


  41. 141
    Lisa @ The Preacher's Wife says:


    Excellent stuff, as always. 🙂

    I’m assuming you’ve seen the movie, Luther. I thought it was well done but I’m no scholar so I’m only hoping it was historically and biblically accurate.

    There is a great scene where Luther is grieved over those walking up the steps to the church on their knees performing penance. It is sad enough knowing people actually believed this act could forgive their sin. Even sadder still is, spiritually speaking, finding my own knees bloodied in the same feeble attempts.

    As for my own pilgrimage, a life changer for me was attending college and working in a low-income housing community where the people were religiously, socially, and educationally ignorant. The only gift I had to offer was the ability to cut hair. We advertised this service in conjunction with a clothing giveaway. People lined up by the dozens.

    The only reason I share this is because it was the first time in my life I had ever touched someone dirty. I remember being thoroughly mortified when a woman sat in my chair whose hair had clearly not been washed in weeks and thinking, “What in the world have I gotten myself into?” And then, also as clearly, it was if God said, “I touch them and you everyday.” It was a paradigm shifting moment and I’ll never get over it.

  42. 142
    Anonymous says:

    now that was deep…and it was good!
    I have to admit, the church I attend is very conservitive, we have just lost of song Dir. and now are back to singing from the Baptist Hymnal, which i love. To me, there is something about those old songs that is like a balm to my broken hurting heart, my messed up mind, my busted up world. But girls I do love some of the comtmepory songs too. I really really do.
    I am ridding myself of alot of legalism,and I do mean A LOT, certain music allowed in the church is one of them. Honestly, I can’t rock out in church…sorry i just can’t.
    I would love to be free in my church like some of you are.

  43. 143
    Anonymous says:

    I can’t remember the name of the church but it was in Israel and it was a vaulted cathedral with many many people in it…just tourists stopping in. We began singing acapela and voices joined in…many voices, different languages and it just resonated to the ceiling and back to us as if ascending and then coming back to bless us. Tears were abundant and you could almost hear angels.

  44. 144
    Anonymous says:

    MGMF. thanks. Great article.
    When hubby Jim, and sons and i
    lived in Dhahran, SaudiArabia
    our houseboy(man housekeeper) went to pilgrimage in Mecca. He told me
    that it was a very hard and emotional trip.( He was so poor that he ate our 2 finches for lunch,that is how poor he was). He said the poor have free airplane tickets to go and see the Mecca stone. Interesting. Personally I was sad living in Saudi because only the men got to visit the mosques and i yearned(as a lady) to see with my own eyes a church, synogogue, must less visit a place of worship. SC

  45. 145
    Anonymous says:

    I did already post a very different journey, but wanted to share something similar in nature to your experience, Melissa, that I just loved. A friend and I had the opportunity to go to a Sunday morning service in the chapel within the grounds of Balmoral castle in England – the official residence of the royal family. The chapel was relatively small but filled with ornaments of royalty that go back centuries and centuries. Royalty has been married and buried within those four walls. In fact, Prince Charles and Camilla had been married right there just a year or two before my friend and I visited. The chapel was full of physical splendor, but the content of the service, although lovely, seemed sadly mechanical.

    The next day my friend and I made a little pilgrimmage to find C.S. Lewis’ home. We took a train to Oxford and walked out of town toward Lewis’ church and home. People along the way directed us first to the church where we found C.S. Lewis’ gravesite. It was a very simple slab of marble on the ground in the middle of a small, old churchyard. Along with his name and the dates of his birth and death, the stone reads, “Each man must bear his going hence.”

    What a world of difference between the royal, ornate tombs in the chapel of Balmoral and this simple yet elegant marker of God’s man. Oh to set aside a yearning for the glories and treasures this life can hold and long wholeheartedly to live a simple, unaffected life that is used by our royal, holy God to spread His beauty, truth, salvation and love.

    Linda in MN

  46. 146
    GinnyLou says:

    Traveling to the Holy Lands is a trip I’ve wanted to take for a long time. Knowing that I can actually still see the places that Jesus walked makes things so much more real and less ethereal for me.

    But, I’ve thought a lot about the things mentioned in your post as well. For example…Seeing “The Passion of the Christ” is a kind of pilgrimage for modern-day Christians. I’ve heard so many reasons for not seeing the movie, and I’m sure there are lots of valid reasons. But, as painful as it was for me to make myself sit through the pain Christ suffered depicted on the screen, it was extraordinarily valuable for me to be forced to look in the face of what was done FOR ME. The whole time, I felt a whisper in my ear, “I did that for you”. “And that”. “And that blow, that one was for you too”. It was agonizing to watch, but it strengthened my faith in so many ways that I can’t even explain.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

  47. 147
    Unreasonable Grace says:

    Can I just say that I love your style? Someday we’ll be listening to YOU speak as the headliner at a ladies’ conference!
    So many things you wrote resonated (some for good, some for shame) in my spirit. I will be reading this post many more times….

  48. 148
    Suzanne says:

    One of my most life changing places was at a retreat on a mountain. I struggled with a bad past and never felt God’s forgivness to the point where I really didn’t believe I was clean or had any good motives in me. I was able to catch up with a long lost friend who knows God deeply. We hiked up higher on the mountain and she told me that she admired the way I always spiritually “cleansed” myself. I was speechelss because for the first time I believed it. For the first time I felt innocense in me. There’s something about being on a mt that allows you to climb higher than the fog and see truth for miles and miles. I realized that’s what the truth does when we believe it, it puts us on a mountain top.

  49. 149
    Melissa says:

    Singapore Easter 2008 ~ I was there on a mission trip and was amazed at the sunrise service on the beach. There were people from every part of the world, every shade imaginable, worshiping Jesus in song, dance, language, every way….it was a true picture of heaven to me.


  50. 150
    purefire says:


    Love your posts! Whenever I see a long one, I copy it, put it in “Word”, then print it out so I can read over it slowly. You put such depth in your writing and this hungry soul enjoys feasting on what you’ve written. But it’s that way with all you Moore girls. God has given each of you such a gift for writing and bringing God’s love and lessons to life. Thank you for your transparency.

    As for travels, last year at Deeper Still in ATL – well, it was life-changing. The messages I heard that weekend set my heart aflame and I haven’t been the same since. And I’m going to the Deeper Still in Greensboro this year! But this time many of my girlfriends are going too. I can hardly wait until then!

    Love all ya’ll to pieces and pray for ya’ll daily.

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