April 28, 2009
After 21 years of writing prayer letters, I have finally decided to give them a name: “The Palmers’ Pilgrimage” (which is also the name of our blog). If you want to know why I chose “The Palmers’ Pilgrimage,” then read this next section. If not, you can skip to the following one!
Why I’m calling these letters “The Palmers’ Pilgrimage”
The origin of the name “Palmer” dates back to the Middle Ages in England. It refers to a person who goes on a pilgrimage to a “holy place,” such as the city of Jerusalem. Medieval Christian pilgrims who traveled to Jerusalem were given a palm branch as they entered the city, hearkening back to Jesus’ triumphal entry (see John 12: 12-13). They were then called "palmers" in reference to their palm branch.
I appreciate the associations between palmers and pilgrims, because, of course, the Christian life of faith is commonly referred to as a pilgrimage, a journey through this world to our heavenly home. John Bunyan’s book Pilgrim’s Progress is, of course, the classic example. There are a number of passages in Scripture from which this concept of God’s people as pilgrims comes – we are strangers and exiles on this earth, sojourners who are on the way to our true homeland, for which we eagerly long:
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11, KJV)By faith he (Abraham) went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, … for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. (Hebrews 11: 9-10, ESV)These all died in faith, … having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11: 13-16, ESV)
These texts have been very significant to me throughout my adult life. I long to live my life “for the joy set before me,” with my eyes fixed on Jesus, as a pilgrim and sojourner on this earth. I hope that naming these prayer letters “The Palmers’ Pilgrimage” will remind me and others of the journey of faith we are all on to the better country, the city that has foundations.
Lisa B. update
In my last two prayer letters I have asked for prayers for Lisa B., a Servant Partners intern who became paralyzed from the neck down on March 13. Thank you to all of you who have been praying for her. She is in physical therapy and is gradually regaining some mobility. She can now move her arm some, and wiggle one of her toes. She can eat and breathe on her own. She is now in a motorized wheelchair which she controls by moving her head. So she is making gradual progress. She feels that God has spoken to her that she will be fully healed, but also that she will need to be patient and wait for it to happen. Her doctors are estimating anywhere from 6 months to 2 years of physical therapy for a complete recovery. Of course, God may heal her faster than that. Please pray that God would give her and her husband Eric patience and strength to persevere through this difficult time. We have been requested to pray along the lines of Psalm 27:13-14 for both Lisa and Eric.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!
Mini and I celebrated our sixth anniversary two days ago, April 26! I am so thankful for my wife and family. The kids are doing fine. Emily is 9 months “old” today. She is crawling everywhere, exploring the world, and learning to stand. You can see pictures of Emily and Lily on our blog.
The New Friars
Next week our family will travel up to San Francisco for 4 days to attend an annual gathering of the leaders of multiple ministries that focus on incarnational mission among the urban poor. I request your prayers for our travels and for these meetings, May 4 - 7.
Scott Bessenecker is one of the leaders who plans to be present at these meetings. If you’d like to learn more about what next week’s meetings will be about, and what incarnational urban poor ministries like Servant Partners are all about, then I highly recommend and encourage you to read Scott’s excellent book, The New Friars (InterVarsity Press, 2006). Scott describes five characteristics that today’s missions among the world’s poor have in common with monastic orders and other friends of the poor throughout the history of the Church. He profiles several of our Servant Partners staff in the book. It is a very inspiring read which powerfully conveys many of the convictions, values, and passions that many of us in incarnational urban poor ministry share. I commend it to you and would love to hear any comments you may have on The New Friars.
Thank you so much for your prayers for our family. We are grateful to be able to share our pilgrimage with you, and are always happy to hear from you!
For the joy set before us,
Dave, Mini, Lily, and Emily