Bible Verse: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?” 1 Corinthians 9:24

Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:1-25

Several years ago, my mentor, Leighton Ford, a seasoned Presbyterian minister, wrote to me and said he was organizing a ten-day pilgrimage to Ireland. I had never been to Ireland. I had never been on a pilgrimage.

Contrary to the popular assumptions about monks and nuns, Celtic monastics did not withdraw from society to spend time alone, isolated from the world. Instead, they built their monasteries close to settlements, on well-known hilltops, or on islands near established sea-lanes so they could practically demonstrate the hospitality of Christ.

The Celtic monasteries were not just places of prayer and worship; they also served as hotels, emergency shelters, hospitals, libraries, universities, centers for the arts, and mission-sending bases. These spiritual pilgrims were not just concerned with their own spiritual growth; they were a force for justice and community transformation.

Like many, I had assumed that those who made prayer the primary occupation of their life did little practical good for society. I left Ireland with a new sense that it was possible to be both deeply prayerful and powerfully engaged in making the world a better place.

Though I didn’t recognize it then, my time in Ireland would eventually lead to a second “conversion” for me, a journey of growing to appreciate the beauty of the monastic way of life.

But my conversion to the monastic way didn’t mean I adopted all of the particular habits of that ancient path. I didn’t start wearing a hooded white robe, nor did I start eating in silence. I lived in a city, would soon be married, and with a church ministry and the ever-growing demands of life, I knew I couldn’t just leave my life behind — and God was not calling me to do that.

Instead, I began to ask the question: “Is it possible to follow the monastic way, enjoying God in every area of my life, while immersed in the busy routines of modern life?” Maybe that’s a question you have as well.

— Ken Shigematsu, author of God In My Everything. Copyright ©2013 by Ken Shigematsu. Used by permission of Zondervan.

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