A month ago I was in Israel. It seems both like yesterday and a very long time ago. A lot has happened in the past month, including “choking on the freelance firehose,” which is how I described the current flow of my workload to a couple of people this past week.

But Israel is showing up, even in the midst of a very full schedule. I’ve had some illuminating conversations this week as I continue to live into the idea of leading a group of people on a pilgrimage to that holy land. Those conversations have reminded me that the theme of the spiritual aspect of my work—Cultivating Roots and Wings—ties very well into such a “mobile retreat,” as I find myself thinking of it.

Cultivating has a variety of definitions, ranging from loosening and preparing soil for planting to fostering growth or improving through labor, care, and study. All of these apply when it comes to considering a pilgrimage. So often, our spiritual ground becomes hard and dry. This could be because we don’t tend to it, allowing our spirit to dry out, or because we tread the same ground in the same way, day after day, creating a pathway so dense that little can sprout there. Treading the same ground might look like saying the same prayers, over and over, until we no longer pay attention to the words and their meanings. It could also mean showing up at church, week after week, and focusing on the social aspects or our leadership duties rather than worship of our beloved Creator.

Cultivating this hard, dry ground requires time and attention. One good way to do that is to experience the “same old ground” in a new way, which is what happened to me when I went to Israel. I’d seen a lot more photographs of southern Israel, which is dry and parched, as you can see here, where the Dead Sea scrolls were found. I had no idea that Galilee, in the north, was so much more green and fertile, as you can see in the picture from my post two weeks ago. In fact, the land around the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus lived for the majority of his ministry, is some of the most fertile soil in the entire world! Is it any wonder, then, that so many of Jesus’ parables had agrarian themes? I also now, finally, understand why scripture says that, when Jesus fed the five thousand, he had them sit down in groups on the green grass!

Cultivating roots also means fostering spiritual growth, and traveling through Israel certainly did that for me. I had diligently worked to “improve” my spiritual understanding through study, prior to our trip. Some of that study resulted in blog posts that I have shared. Being in the holy land, however, took that spiritual growth to another, deeper level. From simple things like a new understanding of the “paths of righteousness” (explication of that will have to wait for another day!) to standing in the subterranean cell where Jesus probably spent the night before he was crucified (again, more on that later), I feel my soul-level comprehension of Scripture was truly, deeply cultivated during my week in the holy land.

Being a spiritual guide, naturally I want to share that with all of you! I will share, more and more, in the weeks ahead, on this blog and eventually through other offerings. But I also want to provide the chance for some of us to walk together—literally—upon holy ground. So I am having conversations about gathering a group of pilgrims for a mobile retreat in Israel, perhaps next January. I invite you to consider whether you might want to join me in this life-changing experience.

Meanwhile, take a moment to consider where and how your own spiritual life might need cultivating in this season. Lent is only ten days away; are you considering some sort of Lenten commitment? Perhaps you might integrate the concept of cultivation into the choices you make for drawing closer to your Creator during Lent.

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