Getting into position to see the ancient pictographs required using ropes. A clue of the challenge was the life preserver conveniently left on the rocks by Ontario Parks. After hiking the treacherous trail – climbing rocks! – I realized the target images were on a cliffside facing Lake Superior.


A lone traveler, I took a few pictures from safety and climbed back up the rocks to my car. Assessing risk, I paid close attention to possibilities, the angle of the rocks, and the minimal tread on my shoes. I also noted what my gut was telling me.

Nah, not today.

Finally, through border security, I found myself entirely without cellular capabilities. No navigation, no internet, no phone. (I knew this would happen and the solution.) My first stop was the visitor center. Still stressed after getting across the border, I didn’t ask enough questions. I did get a map. What I didn’t count on was the difficulty of finding a phone carrier or electronics store. I got turned around and remembered the first rule of paper maps. You have to know your current location.


Hunger mounted as I strategized. I should eat and think. Aha! There was a Pita Pit, a chain I know from the states would have something a vegan could eat. Pulling into the parking lot, I discovered three – count them- three of the Canadian phone carriers I’d read about in the same shopping center. A few doors down was another. Irrational from hunger, I visited the first two stores before eating with no luck. So, I ate and went to the third, where I left with an affordable plan and a new sim card in my phone.

and updated Maggie using the free wifi.

Vulnerability takes many forms. It can be life-threatening. It can be inconvenient or cut you off from loved ones. For instance, our bodily needs, the need for food, can make it difficult for us as we face our vulnerabilities. I would argue that humans are equipped to make good decisions when faced with risks and vulnerabilities. However, we often do not take adequate care of our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. We find ourselves overwhelmed by the big picture when life only requires one step at a time.

As I continue my solo pilgrimage across the continent and back to reset my spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being, I have felt vulnerable many times. That was true for me as a pastor of a local church as well. The causes of vulnerability are different than they were in pastoral ministry. The difference is that ministry itself puts you in a vulnerable position. It is living in a fishbowl. You are regularly criticized for good or ill by 50 or 75 or 200 congregants, many of whom think they could do your job better.

Previously I found that managing the vulnerability of ministry required clear boundaries, regular exercise, healthy food, family, and the support of the staff and laity with whom you work. I was pretty damn good at that, too. Unfortunately, the pandemic and a decision that I did not and would not have made placed me in a position that proved to be untenable. I tried. God knows I tried. Ultimately, my clear boundaries were ignored, I failed to exercise enough, and I ate too much.


And, so, at the end of May, I joined the Great Resignation and left my pulpit, and in June, I embarked on this journey of self-renewal and hope.

Most nights of the post-grandchildren phase of my pilgrimage have included rain. Yeah, camping and rain. Vulnerability. A few nights ago, I woke to a pool of water in the tent. (In retrospect, it was my fault. I have learned things about camping.) Fortunately, I was more or less dry. Also, the rain had stopped. A bit overwhelmed, I took a step at a time and did what was necessary.

But the first step was to go for a run!

Yes, the first step was to do something good for me. Yes, the first step was to manage my vulnerability with exercise. After a five through the puddles, I returned to the campsite with a smile, and a clear head. I de-camped, set a plan, showered, and then did something good for my soul once again before heading to the laundromat. The run was amazing. The falls were spectacular. And I overcame vulnerability.

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